A three-decade-old fight over the fate of longtime Tucson restaurant Lerua’s Fine Mexican Food is over, with the Tucson City Council signing off on a $615,000 settlement to purchase the property.
The family-owned restaurant, famous for its green corn tamales, has been fighting for survival at 2005 E. Broadway, near Campbell Avenue, as the city worked to buy the property as part of a long anticipated road-widening project.
Lerua’s will likely close at the end of January, although Lerua’s owner Mike Hultquist isn’t willing to set a date yet, noting he is meeting with the city on Wednesday to discuss when the property is scheduled for demolition. The last he heard was the end of March but said he would need to close several weeks before that to move restaurant equipment out.
He isn’t optimistic about re-opening, saying the six-figure deal isn’t enough to re-open somewhere else.
“It is still way short of what we need. I cannot afford to re-open without borrowing money,” Hultquist said.
Bids to build a similar restaurant have come in as much as $2 million, he said.
As his business closes, Hultquist said he is grateful for the decades he spent in the Tucson community.
“I want to thank them,” he said. “I’ve been part of many of people’s birthdays, weddings and anniversaries for years.”
The next few weeks will be hard, Hultquist said, saying some of his die-hard customers are not taking news of the restaurant’s closing well.
“It is not easy, they cry when I tell them I’ve got to go,” he added. “And I’ve been here since I was 6 years old.”
Lerua’s is one of the last businesses to vacate the area where the city plans to widen Broadway to six lanes starting at Euclid Avenue to Country Club Road.