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Village restaurant group pulled the plug for winter

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | There are obviously a lot of closed restaurants out there right now, and sadly many of them won’t ever be opening up again.

But in the case of one well-known group of Greenwich Village eateries, the closure has been only temporary, a detour around the depths of winter while indoor dining is banned.

The Pepe’s Restaurant Group, which includes a cluster of four Spanish-and Mexican-themed places on W. Fourth St. near Cornelia St., initially closed down for January and February. The family-owned operation includes its 50-year-old flagship, Tio Pepe restaurant, as well as Las Ramblas tapas bar, Burrito Loco and the Taco Shop.

The cost of heating the W. Fourth St. restaurant group’s outdoor seating shed was a factor in the decision to temporarily close. (Photo by The Village Sun)

Meanwhile, finally giving restaurateurs a slight reprieve, Governor Cuomo has O.K.’d the return of indoor dining at 25 percent, starting on Friday, two days before Valentine’s Day.

But Rocio Sanz, one of the Pepe Group’s owners and a longtime member of Community Board 2, said they won’t open with only 25 percent indoor dining, and will instead wait till March.

“Hopefully, the weather will be kinder in March and we will be able to heat up the outdoor dining space,” she said. “We want to spare our employees from having to work in such extreme cold weather, too.”

Passersby will currently find Tio Pepe boarded-up and padlocked, with its outdoor dining shed off-limits behind orange plastic fencing.

In early January, the Sanz family sent out a notice to customers about the culinary hiatus, noting that the cost of electricity to heat the outdoor structure was a factor:

Dear valued Customers, Friends and Family,

Oh, what a year it’s been! When the pandemic hit NYC in March, we opened a takeout window and were busy serving up and delivering our classic margaritas, tacos, family portion paellas, and your favorites. By summer, we were so happy to welcome you into our spacious outdoor, tented cantina which quickly became a neighborhood favorite. Inside, we installed air purifiers, state-of-the-art, hospital grade, blue light filtration, and air scrubbers. With our newly installed systems in place, we were ready to serve you safely the day indoor dining opened. As the weather cooled, our outdoor cantina evolved into a more permanent, gorgeous wooden structure; the warmest, safe spot in the neighborhood. With indoor dining once again suspended, we are only able to keep you warm in our outdoor cantina. And because we have followed all city and state strict regulations and are providing a true “outdoor” experience in a highly ventilated structure, keeping all of those heaters on for you, comes with a very hefty price tag. Our employees have worked tirelessly to follow all regulations and provide you with a safe experience and have all remained healthy throughout the pandemic.

With heavy hearts, we have made the difficult decision to close for the months of January and February starting on January 4th. This is an extremely painful decision to make as we want to be here for our customers just as we have been for the past 50 years. This necessary hiatus, however, will give our employees a well deserved break during the coldest months of the year and our electrical bill a much needed respite. We look forward to seeing you again beginning March 2nd when we reopen, or before, if the indoor dining restrictions are lifted. We will keep you updated.

Thank you for your continued support and best wishes for the new year!

Kind regards,
Jimmy Sanz, Family and Staff

Kind regards,
Rocio Sanz

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