A Tale of Two Restaurants


Last May two restaurants in San Carlos went out of business. The Marina Cantina and Maggis & Beer both closed their doors within two weeks of each other and I simply thought it interesting to understand why. One had a fantastic location with mediocre service and food and owners who were not motivated to work hard to make it successful. The other had a terrible location, great service great food & prices and an owner who was working very hard to make a living at it. In the end neither could make a go off it. 

I have to admit that I knew the Marina Cantina was doomed as far back as October. We has just gotten back from our 8 month sailing odyssey and were tied off on our mooring in the bay. I saw Jim a lot back then and he had told me flat out, he was tired of working so hare “for peanuts” and was looking to get out of the Cantina. From what I have learned recently that was also about the time he stopped making his payments on the business. 

Eventually Jim & Isis had to be literally thrown out of the place which was unfortunate. I heard it wasn’t pretty when the CFE came to pull the electric meter. It might be some time before the Cantina opens it doors again and I have heard rumors of the proverbial labor suit being filed by employees who have not been liquidated properly. A labor suit could in theory cause a problem for the next or current owner. 

Who ever takes on the task of starting up the Cantina again might want to understand why it was so successful in the first place. The Cantina when run by Grant and Heidi knew what it was and what it was designed for. Jim and Isis tried to change a successful model into something that fit what they wanted it to be.

Although I can not say I frequented the place often when it changed hands I can say that several people have told me a similar story. After it changed the quality went way down. Ingredients that used to be purchased in the states were now purchased locally. The kitchen was modified to do do a full menu. It was originally designed to do soups salads and sandwiches. Get the food out fast and keep every body drinking. The big mark up as everyone knows is in liquor sales. Ultimately they failed at that task. The economic slow down certainly didn’t help but I don’t think it can all be blamed on that one factor. 

Maggis & Beer was only open for a few months and though I never had a chance to eat there I heard from many that the food was great the prices were reasonable and the service was pretty good. The location, right in front of the old Horse Black table dance club, was most likely what helped do Hector in. What didn’t help either was the fact that he was probably not open long enough to be able to build up a steady flow of year round local clients and a savings nest egg to get him through the slow season that inevitably arrives in San Carlos for everyone in the food business.

What ever the true reasons are for both businesses who ever opens up in their place better be ready to have a good model work hard and have some savings in the bank since the good times don’t last all year here and you need that nest egg to get you through the slow times. In spanish the saying goes something like this; Hay tiempos de vacas gordas y vacas flacas. Be ready for the vacas flacas!!


Leave a reply