East Seventh, beset by construction for the past three years, was finally freed from its orange cone bondage on Sunday. Jose de Loera, owner of East Seventh restaurant Takoba, wasn't afraid to open his restaurant smack in the middle of all that, though. Below, de Loera talks about the project's affect on his business and what its end means for the future of the neighborhood. Could East Seventh become for restaurants what East Sixth is for bars and food trucks?
How has the mess of construction on East Seventh affected Takoba?
So when we opened — it didn't affect us in a way that we weren't open before it happened, so it didn't really change things. We opened that way.
So do you find that most of your customers are from the neighborhood, or are people from farther away braving the construction?
Definitely it's all over. One thing is when we set up our credit card machines, usually they give you statistics or numbers, like well the East Side is, I don't know, 30% credit card users and the rest use cash. So we open and we get like 95% credit cards. So what it says is that — and I know on the West Side it's mostly credit cards — we know we get people from the West Side.
And we get the community, they're in a lot. I've been on the East Side for about ten years. So I know the East Side and they come here all the time. In general we get a great mix: we get the hipsters, we get the yuppies, families, and a little bit of the bar scene. So it's a great mix.
I live in the area. Actually, that's one of the reasons I opened the restaurant here, is I live in the area and we would always complain about there's no places to go eat. I eat a lot here, not because I'm working but because I live a block away.
How will the construction ending affect business do you think?
When construction is done, that's going to be huge. Everybody right now, with Seventh Street, they kind of avoid it. Like I said, I've been on the East Side for the last ten years, and I remember when East Seventh was just you go to the airport, you come from the airport. It was pretty much access-only.
How will it affect the neighborhood?
This area has a lot of potential. It's just going to happen, it's just going to get bigger and bigger. We still need a lot more restaurants on the East Side. Probably with the construction ending there's going to be a lot more restaurants opening. Actually, a lot of businesses went out, a lot of restaurants just went out of business. It's been really difficult.
You definitely see a lot of for lease signs along this stretch.
Yeah. So I think that's going to change. It's good for everybody, restaurants compete with each other but I think it's just good for everybody. Because it makes it a destination. It's like oh, let's go to the East Side and see what we find. Instead of just one place and oh, let's go to that place, it just makes it more difficult.
And I know the bar scene is big on the East Side. In general, I think there will be more restaurants opening on the East Side. When I first moved here, there was just nothing. Now it's just?there's a lot of good walking. Especially in this area.