Felipe’s Mexican Taqueria announced Wednesday via social media it would no longer serve its tacos, bowls, burritos and margaritas after it says “adios” to Gainesville on Nov. 1.
In its four years of operation in Gainesville, the Mexican restaurant strived to start a party for the neighborhood every day, with buy-one-get-one-free margaritas on Fridays, Latin Nights with local DJ Elio, a booth in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during football games, and outreach to local high schools, said Pike Howard, Felipe’s director of development and finance.
“We made a connection with the University of Florida, and for that, we will be forever thankful,” Howard said. “It will always be a special place for us in terms of success and failures at times, but also a step forward for us as a company.”
Decreased sales during the COVID-19 pandemic “wasn’t necessarily the straw that broke the camel’s back,” as some might assume, Howard said.
The development director said the main reason for shutting down is because the landlord was considering selling the property, located on 1209 W. University Ave. Ultimately, Felipe’s had to decide if they wanted to stay under a different landlord.
Upon deliberation, Howard said Gainesville ended up not being the ideal area for the chain’s growth, as Felipe’s tends to do well in densely populated residential areas where people from different age groups regularly dine.
“When they're [students] not there and business is pretty slow, it becomes more challenging to be profitable in the off months,” he said. “We thought we'd get an additional sort of older demographic, but that never really materialized.”
Instead, Felipe’s hopes to add restaurants in southwest Florida to meet its market need, he said. A new location is currently being developed in north Naples to complement the sites already in Naples and Fort Myers Beach.
Olivia Williams, a 21-year-old UF health education and behavior senior, was one of many Gainesville students who was shocked by the announcement.
“After Swamp closed, it [Felipe’s] felt like one of the only places left in town that was outside, and you could really relax and hang out,” she said.
Williams has been going to Felipe’s about once or twice a month since her freshman year in 2017. Without the presence of the two party-time staples, she said the only close-to-campus eatery with a similar atmosphere is The Social at Midtown.
The inexpensive build-your-own menu items at Felipe’s made eating vegetarian easy for Williams, who said she plans on visiting with her friends a few more times before the taqueria closes in November.
“I personally love Mexican food, so I’ll miss their food and their margaritas and having that atmosphere,” she said. “It’s just sad.”