Bye bye, Baja

photo by Max Cooper

There will be no more margaritas on the Biltmore Avenue patio of Mamacita's Baja Cantina. The restaurant is closed as of Wednesday, Nov. 14.

Owner John Atwater says financial difficulties hampered the business, and he made the decision to close after reviewing his accounts. “We didn't want to [close], but sales have been pretty bad these past three weeks, and we can't move forward,” he says.

Winter brings slow sales, Atwater says, and he didn't think the restaurant would make it through the colder months, especially since the weather would make the outdoor patio less popular. “Once we had to close our patio, it was like, 'OK, goodbye business,'” he says. “It was really weird.”

The Baja Cantina space is for rent through Dewey Property Advisors. “We hope to be able to find someone to come in here that will broaden the Asheville culinary scene,” Atwater says.

Next door, Mamacita's is still open, serving California-style tacos and burritos. “It's financially healthy,” Atwater says.

The Baja Cantina provided the table-service complement to Mamacita's counter service, but both menus featured Baja-style cuisine. “Maybe it was too similar a concept to what we were already doing, so it was just saturation,” Atwater says.

He opened The Baja Cantina in April in the space previously occupied by Mo Daddy's Bar & Grill, which he also owned. He says the businesses functioned differently, and while Mo Daddy's was not financially viable in the end, it did improve business at Mamacita's. “It didn't really sell a whole lot of food itself; it certainly brought a lot more people down this end of the street late-night, which helped Mamacita's sell a lot more food during the last hour of business,” he says.

Mamacita's is located at 77 Biltmore Ave. The Baja Cantina occupied the adjoining space.

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