Betty, Luna and Jasmine Barrios

La Rondalla owner Carlos Barrios was in his early 30s when he took over his parents’ restaurant in the late 1980s to run it for 20 years. If things go as planned this fall,  he’ll hand the management over to his two daughters. Already, he’s transferred the ownership to their names.

“I’m not going to be around forever,”  said Barrios who recently suffered a seizure. Although he wants to be involved in the restaurant as much as possible, doctors have told him to take it easy so it will be Betty Barrios, 25, and her 23-year-old sister Luna who take over.  They hope to have the restaurant open by late November or early December.

Between now and then, there’s plenty to do.

La Rondalla is expected to reopen by late November or early December 2011

The restaurant, which closed in 2007 after a health inspection revealed several violations including rodent droppings and cockroaches, looks far from reopening any time soon. Apart from an old jukebox in the back, a table with a few chairs, a few plastic cups and some shot glasses, it’s empty.

Beams have yet to be covered, dry wall needs to be applied and on the floor, pieces of wood sit in piles.
Ever since the restaurant closed in 2007, Barrios has tried to reopen it but he’s run into  problems with the renovations.  He recently filed a lawsuit against his first contractor and architect because, he says, they didn’t follow city regulations.

“He’s really trustworthy. He believed what he said. He thought he knew what he was doing but he didn’t,” his daughter Betty said referring to the contractor.

The future dining room

Several Mission residents have also approached the owner about leasing the space. A sports bar even came close to replacing the Mexican restaurant. But someone involved with the project told Mission Loc@l in July 2010 that Barrios eventually refused to sell.

“I tried to keep things going,” said Barrios. “I thought that was best for my daughters. My dad did it for me and I wanted to return the favor.”

Renovations are moving along now, Betty said.

Her father recently hired a new contractor and according to the city’s Department of Building Inspection, he installed a $15,000 sprinkler system in the basement and a $3,000 fire suppression system in the kitchen. He is also spending $35,000 on a new storefront.

“We’re back on the right track now,” Betty said as she walked through the restaurant where renovations have already eaten up more than $500,000, the sisters said.

Although both sisters have had a few retail and restaurant jobs, their primary experience was growing up in the family business.

“When we were little, our grandparents would tell us ‘you will run this place one day.’ We didn’t know then whether we would or not,” Betty said.

When we were eight or nine, we played waitresses, Luna said. “We would pick up people’s plates and get tips.”

When they got older, their father hired them as waitresses.

“When they were little, I had them be waitresses there. They had their shifts and everything. I had it made out for them,” he said.

In the last few years, Betty has been raising her two-years old daughter and her five-year-old son. On September 1, she gave birth to another little girl, Aliyah.

Luna, her sister, says that she feels the pressure because she doesn’t have children. Her mother and the restaurant’s co-owner, Esperanza Barrios, and her brother-in-law who works as a security guard will be helping out with Betty’s kids. Luna worked at a retirement home in the Marina but quit about a year ago to help her father with the renovations. She plans to take business and culinary classes at San Francisco City College.

Where the bar will be.

In a sense, their taking over the restaurant resembles what happened to their father.   He too took over La Rondalla from his parents when they got sick. He immediately started making all the decisions for the business but made sure to run them by his parents first. His daughters say they expect things to be similar when they re-open.

The new version of La Rondalla will feature traditional Mexican cuisine in a Hacienda-like atmosphere.  They will keep the popular margaritas, but they also want to modernize the menu a little.

Luna and Betty are in the process of hiring staff, they said. The daughters hope that Mario Hernandez who has been a cook at the family restaurant for more than 20 years, will come back and work with them but Luna said she hasn’t asked him yet.

Luna and Betty Barrios inside their family’s La Rondalla restaurant

“We’re excited. We’ve been dealing with this stuff for so long, it’s been a long process,” said Betty.

“We’re pretty excited but nervous,” Luna added.

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Hélène Goupil

Hélène Goupil is a former editor at Mission Local who now works independently as a videographer and editor. She's the co-author of "San Francisco: The Unknown City" (Arsenal Pulp Press).

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  1. Cant wait for the opening of a young women run business. I will hold many of my meetings and events there just to support the young women. I am sure many of us is the Mission will be glad to support the dream passed down! Good luck mujeres!!

  2. Bajones and La Rondalla, a great combinations by the way. I miss that place as well. The mission was bitchin in the 80’s and then it became cool. When I fist moved there people used to think I was crazy, white boy in the barrio. Best neighborhood in the City and those places were part of the culture. I am glad one is coming back.

  3. I used the love the place, good booze and food, Christmas decorations, disco balls, stuffed deer heads, pictures of fishing and hunting exploits and Mariachi music with the wacky SF regulars at 2 AM. I wish them the best, I have missed the place and wondered why it closed. It was generally always busy. Good luck folks, I will come back.

  4. Welcome again

    I can hardly wait, I love eating and Teresita use to perform in peron at the Bar next door.

    Scraming Queen Welcomes you

  5. Good luck ladies: I truly wish you success! I have so many wonderful memories from years gone by eating and drinking ( those delicious margaritas ) at my favorite Mexican restaurant. Don’t jazz it up too much: I loved the year round Christmas decorations! But, what made your restaurant so special was the atmosphere of being in a bar full of people, of every walk of life, enjoying themselves and eachother over food and drinks. If you can create your own version of the magic that your father and grandfather had: you will be giving us a dearly missed social setting that we will once again faithfully return to.

    Couldn’t count how many times I drifted from Bajones over to La Rondalla, maybe because I can’t remember many of them!!

  7. Welcome back! I used to go to La Rondalla because it was the only place to eat on Valencia past midnight. Yes to the margaritas. And I wouldn’t call the food “crappy”; I would say “old school” and in that context I hope the new owners don’t change the menu too much. But the main thing about the place was there was always a fiesta going on and the later at night it got the more fiesta La Rondalla became. Hope they can get that mojo back. It’s been seriously missed.

  8. you know when the price of renovations is being touted, they’re trying to half-ass it. everything mentioned belongs in the “shit you’re supposed to do” bucket. no comment on getting ripped off by contractors.

  9. Yay! I would love to see La Rondalla back in action. This place is a Mission classic. And while I would never eat the food there (was pretty crappy quality), the Margaritas were to die for and cheap…. It was a real happy hour chips and margaritas hangout for the locals….