EAST VILLAGE — Mexican restaurant Benny’s Burritos is closing down its bar and restaurant as it prepares to operate as a small take-out location, according to its owner.
The restaurant, which opened on East Sixth Street and Avenue A 26 years ago, will close its restaurant space Saturday and let go of staff, said owner Mark Merker.
“The world has changed,” said Merker, who opened Benny’s in late 1988. News of the closing was first reported by EV Grieve.
The restaurant has had trouble staying afloat, as costs and rents rose while competition increased from Chipotle and other restaurants that served burritos, Merker said.
Business however, has remained steady, he said.
“It’s actually been pretty good, that’s the killer,” he said. “I would say that our traffic has been pretty consistent for the past four [or] five years, but that’s a problem. With rising costs, you need more business. It’s just the way things are going.”
The new takeout space will be located next door and furnished with a few seats, Merker said. It’s planned to open on Sunday and will serve the same menu as the restaurant, he said.
The restaurant’s sister location, Harry’s Burritos in the Upper West Side, will also close, he said, for many of the same reasons. Merker said he is uncertain when the 22-year-old restaurant will close, but said it could happen at the end of this month or the middle of December. The Upper West Side however, will not get a new takeout space.
“I don’t want to lost my customers at all but I have nowhere to go up there,” he said.
Merker said he was unhappy to let go about 50 of his employees at both locations. He was able to keep only six or seven employees to work at the new takeout spot, he said.
“There are many people who have been with me for many, many years. That’s the saddest part,” he said. “As far as business, that’s just the way things are. I’m fine with it.”
Merker’s other restaurant, Harry’s Burritos in Nyack, N.Y., will remain open, he said. The Greenwich Avenue Benny's location, which has a different owner, will also remain open.