Closing Time: Barragan’s restaurant serving up bad news for Echo Park customers

As  long-time customers of Barragan’s restaurant have called to book their holiday banquets for December,  many have received a surprising response from owner Armando Barragan: “We are probably not going to be here.”

After decades of serving countless Combination #1 platters (beef taco and a cheese enchilada)  and pitchers of margaritas, the Barragan family will be closing the Echo Park Mexican restaurant by mid-December after agreeing to sell the Sunset Boulevard property. Barragan, whose family will keep its Burbank and Glendale restaurants open, said he is not sure what kind of restaurant the new owners will open in the 300-seat Echo Park space.  But it will not likely be serving the familiar Mexican-American staples his family has dished out for more than 52 years, he said.

“It hasn’t hit me yet,” said  Barragan, 58, who has worked his entire adult life at the Echo Park restaurant founded by his father, Ramon. “I will miss my customers. I will miss my employees. This is like my home.”

Barragan said a confidentiality agreement prevented him from identifying the buyer of the Echo Park restaurant in the 1500 block of Sunset Boulevard and the parking lot across the street. He said he will try to relocate some of the Echo Park restaurant’s 35 employees to the Burbank and Glendale locations.

A variety of factors prompted Barragan to put the restaurant up for sale.  Competition from new downtown restaurants has taken a toll on Barragan’s  important lunchtime business while taco trucks have picked off budget-minded customers.  That has made it increasingly tough to fill the rambling 300-seat restaurant, which requires at least a staff of 12 to keep it open at any one time, Barragan said.

Renovating the 7,000-square-foot building or carving it up into a smaller, more economically-viable spaces would have been a costly endeavor that Barragan did not want to take on. So, instead he decided to find a buyer for the orange and white building.

Barragan’s father,  Ramon, now 83, opened up the restaurant in 1961 after working as a cook two blocks away. In his new restaurant, Ramon worked the kitchen while his wife, Grace, worked as waitress in the 25-seat dining room.  But Barragan’s expanded over the years into a rambling complex that include six neighboring storefronts with 300 seats, two bars, a banquet room and patio.

Barragan’s enjoyed its best years  during the late 1970s and 1980s as the mainstream embraced  Mexican food and  customers lined up to get in, said Armando Barragan. The restaurant was a favorite with local politicians and its customers have included several mayors, governors and Dodgers owners.

Fans of the Echo Park restaurant will still be able to enjoy the same meals, said Armando Barragan, but “they will have to drive a little bit further.”

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