La Rondalla, the Mexican restaurant and cantina at 901 Valencia St., closed down quietly sometime last week and posted a handwritten note in its storefront window informing patrons of its closure.
The inconspicuous note thanked the community for its patronage and appeared to have been posted some time before the weekend, but as of Monday, it had been taken down.
“We are closing – God Bless you,” the note read. “P.S. We Love you all.”
Luna Barrios, who along with her sister had managed the 64-year-old family business after it returned from a seven-year hiatus in 2014, declined to confirm whether the closure was permanent or to speak about what led to it.
“We are figuring out what to do with the space for the time being,” said Barrios. Neighbors confirmed that service had been halted at the restaurant since last week.
“They haven’t been open in the last week, maybe a little longer,” said Melissa Richmond, an employee at Dog Eared Books at 900 Valencia St, directly across the street from La Rondalla. “I was surprised because there are a lot of soccer games going on right now and they usually draw in crowds for that.”
Known for its potent margaritas, mariachis and year-round Christmas decorations, La Rondalla became a Mission classic that attracted families during the day and fed late-night bar goers at hours when many other restaurants in the area stopped serving.
The story of La Rondalla began in 1951, when Carlos and Esperanza Barrios first opened in the 2,500 square-foot restaurant space on the ground-floor of a building on the corner of 20th and Valencia streets, which they purchased in the 1990s.
During its early years, the restaurant became somewhat of an unofficial hangout for gay Latinos and featured performances by transgender artist and mariachi singer Alberta Nevaerez, who was better known to the community as “Teresita la Campesina,” according to Preserving LGBT Historic Sites in California, an online archive dedicated to memorializing places associated with LGBT history throughout the state.
The group first posted about La Rondalla’s closure on Facebook on July 24.
In the late 1980s, ownership was delegated to Barrios’ son, Carlos Cruz Barrios, who ran the restaurant for some 20 years and also inherited the building.
Despite its longstanding history in the community, this is not the restaurant’s first closure.
In 2007, the Health Department moved in to shut down the establishment following several violations that included a rodent infestation. For years, the space lay dormant as the family scrambled to meet health codes and underwent renovations. Barrios turned down multiple offers to sell the space, and in 2011 transferred the restaurant’s ownership to his daughters, Luna and Betty, following his own health scares.
“I’m not going to be around forever,” Barrios told Mission Local in 2011.
Still, announcements of a grand re-opening were followed by years of delay. In 2012, Luna cited “financial troubles” and bureaucratic delays reasons for La Rondalla’s years-long hiatus.
The Barrios family faced additional problems in 2015 when the city sued them after tenants alleged that they were struggling to keep up with their obligations as landlords.
When La Rondalla was finally resurrected in May 2014, the restaurant faced an immediate setback when original chef Mario Hernandez died on Valencia street that same month.
But the Barrios family was determined to keep the family business going, and invested over $500,000 in renovations that included outfitting its bar with flat screen TVs replacing and more modern decor – bright orange walls and lively artwork.
It is unclear what will happen with the space or if a future resurrection under the family name is in La Rondalla’s cards. We will update the story once we know more.
I can’t remember what led me to this page. But now I’m recalling—fondly, if bittersweetly (yes, I know that’s not a word)—so many nights spent at La Rondalla in the 80s and 90s. Often after starter drinks at Esta Noche or Amelia’s or El Rio. (Have any of those joints survived?) Or maybe a couple of margaritas there, a singalong with one of the lovely lady performers, before a research expedition at the 21st Street Baths.
No, no one went there for great food, not with countless other better Mexican joints in a five-block radius. But who could fail to be cheered by the year-long Christmas fest that was La Rondalla? Haven’t lived in San Francisco in decades, can’t imagine how the city would look to me after so long away, but thanks for this article: a joyous little trip down Memory Lane.
I had too many black out drunk nights here. I still talk about it to anyone that will listen. It was an institution and the Mission is being whitewashed like the Marina.
I loved this place.
Last time I went to La Rondalla a cockroack ran across our table, and when we pointed it out to the waitress she said we had to leave. Good riddance to La Rondalla. If their customer service is that bad and their kitchen is so dirty the cockroaches have taken over, they shouldn’t be in business.
So sad. So many fond memories of La Rondalla. So much fun and good food and music.
There is no way in hell it cost $500,000 to renovate that small space. They are either lying, they were completely ripped off, or the city of San Francisco imposed too many regulations and fines.
This used to be one of my favorite places in the Mission 10 years ago. Since the new opening a couple years ago, it’s a completely differnt place.
Another thought, it’s a blessing and a curse to inherit a family business. From day one, you already have your life spelled out for you. If profitable, it could be good, but if not, it can ruin your life. Many folks take over a failing family business out of a sense of obligation to their parents.
Parents of a business, make sure your kids WANT to take over the business before handing it over. It may be better to sell to a non-family mmber and let your kids pursue their own goals.