The line of customers Monday snaked from a cash register, around a table and out the door, where the grating hum of construction reminded Randy Akerson that his business, after 40 years, was going under.
Akerson, the 65-year-old owner of Gainesville’s Burrito Brothers Taco Co. spent much of his time in the restaurant’s kitchen as an outpouring of support in the form of customers walked through his door a day after news broke of his restaurant’s imminent closure scheduled for Saturday.
“I’m already closing in on three times the average day,” Akerson said at about 4 p.m.
By closing time, he said the 1402 W. University Ave. restaurant had seen a more-than-threefold increase in customers, up to about 500 from 150 on a standard day.
But for Akerson, who with his wife Janet, has peddled burritos and “love sauce” to generations of UF students and Gainesville area residents, the spike in customers was bittersweet.
“This is not how I wanted to end up, with a staff in tears and customers in tears and me in tears, and a government going ‘oh boy, we did the best we could,’” Akerson said.
After moving up West University Avenue to its current location in 2015, Akerson noted a 23-percent drop in revenues between October 2015 and October 2016, and he blamed it in part on the development of The Standard at Gainesville next door, which limited street parking and deterred customers. He expressed discontent with the City of Gainesville’s lack of action.
Elisabeth Emery, a UF alumna in town for a teachers’ workshop, quickly made plans Monday to meet up with other alumni at the restaurant from their college years.
Emery, a 26-year-old living in Leesburg, said she was disheartened to hear Burrito Bros. was closing, and her parents — both UF alumni from the 1980s — felt her pain.
“I really feel a connection to this place,” she said.
After sipping a beer and snacking on chips, Emery said she planned to order a pork, beans and rice burrito, with fiery “love sauce” on top — and a doggy bag for her parents.
“I’m seriously considering buying them two burritos and taking it home with me tonight,” she said.
About 25 customers dine at Burrito Bros. Taco Co., located at 1402 W. University Ave., on Sunday night. The restaurant has been serving the Gainesville community since 1976.