Former Viva Loco Location Remains Vacant

Mexican restaurant has been closed for eight months after more than 20 years of business.

Viva Loco, a Mexican restaurant located at 2381 Merrick Road for 20 years, was once a popular and festive dining spot in the Bellmores, providing good food and good times to those who crossed its doorstep.

Now, its doors are shut, its façade is covered with rental signs and its interior is littered with abandoned, dust-strewn plates and cups. The reason for its closure currently remains a mystery.

With Viva Loco going out of business, Aboff's Paints, located next door at 2395 Merrick Road, is now awkwardly situated between two closed eateries -- Viva Loco on one side, and the former East Bay Diner on the other, which closed last year.

Aboff's manager, Jeff Bernstein, said that the departure of Viva Loco came as a surprise.

"They just closed suddenly about eight months ago," he said. "There was no warning or anything."

When asked what kind of business he would like to see occupy the currently vacant space, Bernstein's answer reflected the issues facing many business owners in these tough economic times, especially on this beleaguered section of Merrick Road in Bellmore.

“It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as they can keep their doors open,” he said. “I mean, everything’s constantly closing around here ... I’m surrounded by emptiness on either side of my store, so it doesn’t really matter what kind of retail store opens, just one that can actually stay open.”

One clue to Viva Loco’s possible fate lies in a stop work order affixed to the front door by the Town of Hempstead, listing a building code violation regarding interior work/alteration without the authorization of the Hempstead Town Department of Buildings, and demanding that all work cease immediately. The date listed on the order is March 27, 2012.

It is unknown if the stop work order had anything to do with the actual closure of Viva Loco, however.

Calls to the building’s landlord were not returned.

Tom Baxter May 10, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Viva de Loco wasn't that good anyway. It was trendy yes, attractive to the crowd that likes to be seen at these sorts of places, but good food....no, not really. As to the vacancy rate in Bellmore & Merrick. There is good deal of it, driving in large part by heavier and heavier property taxes loaded on to the rental payments by unscrupulous landlords and unaccountable school boards!
beth landers May 11, 2012 at 03:38 AM
maybe 10 years ago it was good but last time i was there i had terrible service,,and the food was so bad we couldn't even eat any of it,,it was actually spoiled meat. the manager was a real jerk too. good riddance,,,,
Jaime Sumersille May 11, 2012 at 12:08 PM
According to their Facebook post (https://www.facebook.com/VivaLocoNY) they were last open in October, but had a small kitchen fire. The said they would reopen the following day, but never did and never mentioned why. They also did not respond to several requests for interview about the restaurant's fate. Jaime Sumersille Regional Editor, Nassau County
ed May 11, 2012 at 01:24 PM
What a dump!
concerned neighbor May 13, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Viva Loco..food not so good..but it was a fun place ,,mostly driven by a hard working charismatic individual that focused on the "fun" aspect of a restaurant and not the "food'aspect..however,,the challenge became too big for the operators...heres the scoop..THE real estate /school TAX BURDERN ON MERCHANTS IS MAKING IT VERY HARD TO STAY AFLOAT..Real estate investors are the back bone of every community ..so to call landlords scrupulous is absurd.landlords invest and take risks for which they try to achieve some type of acceptable returns.the Viva Loco building is a tremendous challenge and if the developer can replace this empty building which is an awful eyesore with a merchant that does buisness, pays sales tax and generates jobs which all helps to stimulate our economy...How does anyone have a problem with that?As a matter of fact..would it be better to leave buildings abandoned..or let them fall into disrepair blighting our main roads and reducing real estate and moe values thruout our communities. I think certain landlords and real estate developers should be recognized as a vital ingredient to a vibrant community and not be attacked as one of the commentors did here.The street that Viva loco is part of is in very bad need of a facelift and I hope a brave investor comes along and takes this challenge on.It will help our community alot to see a new and interesting buisness sprout up there.
Robert May 21, 2012 at 12:02 PM
owning a house in very close proximity to Viva Loco for nearly 10 year ( 1994-2004 ) I saw lots of work done to the building and i am very confident all was done without the correct permits! I wouldn't be surprised if it finally caught up with them. I am also sure the surrounding residents don't miss the patrons parking their cars in front of their houses and the loud drunks returning from Viva Locos bar at all hours in the morning. I had many meetings with the owner of Viva Loco while living there and ultimately they did whatever they wanted, not caring much about the surrounding community. I hope a respectable business comes to that location. It was time for Viva Loco to go!
tom billings May 22, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Wow its about time, I would love to know who they knew at the town of hempstead building department. that place had an illegal extension for over 10 years, how did they operate illegally for this long. Nice work CODE ENFORCEMENT. just harass the common homeowner and not the big property tax contributors!!!
tom billings May 22, 2012 at 08:55 PM
I heard they sold to that big real estate tycoon, that Donald Trump guy, Larry Wienberg who owns half of Merrick Rd and Sunrise HWY. Look up MGD Realty.Viva Loco after 20 yrs in business, take it from me, as a fast food restaurant owner in Bellmore, after that long, and an offer from a big investor like that, take the money and run. I am glad they did. Lets see what Big Larry Does in that spot. If any restaurant owner in this economy in this town would be stupid enough to open a new restaurant!! Lets all wait and see!!
larry May 24, 2012 at 10:14 AM
the guy has turned alot of crap that made merrick road look awful.. into nice stores,,,hope he does that here,,or a good restaurant run right.
larry May 24, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Ive rebuilt many derelect properties into beautiful properties.I bring interesting new buisnesses to town..my signature's easy to see..my sites are maintained and well manicured.When I moved here 20 years ago,I recognized this towns also a great place to invest in.Im not looking for applause but it seems improper to knock the work I've done..I take risks and create reward.My renovations pressure nearby property owners to upgrade.I dont have1empty storefront in my centers as merchants and shoppers prefer to be in a clean environment..my tenants run hi-quality buisnesses.I pay a tremendous amount of school/general taxes..overall.I think Ive made a positive contribution to the economy and community.Anyone dissagreeing may be motivated to do so from envy but i dont see how you cant find positive in my icommitment to our commercial corridor.It helps residential land value as a good shopping district is always found in a good residential district...theyre never without each other.Yes..I'll replace Viva Loco with a quality establishment and try to further enhance our wonderful community..Im not certain who or what yet,,I'll try to eliminate the violations to the town building codes via adding parking or rebuilding parts of the site,.And this will be a wonderful new block front soon..a pleasure for all to visit-wether its a restaurant or new use..it'll be a proud property..nothing like it has been!I live here and I invest here.,Keep an eye on this site..watch it become beautiful.
john wellsworth July 07, 2012 at 04:14 PM
I hope all that Larry is saying is true, I am sure it is. Its too bad Gino from Viva Loco was never able to settle with the town and keep his lay out to conform to his business plan, or the new owners either for that matter, I am sure once the property is brought to abide by all current building codes it will become a marketable site once again, and have another 20 year plus run. Good Luck larry
john wellsworth July 07, 2012 at 04:15 PM
thats what happens when you have the right people on your payroll, don't be jealous, be political and diplomatic and you too will get perks.
Mike Bastiani July 07, 2012 at 04:39 PM
As the former owner of Viva Loco, we found it appropriate to release a statement as regarding our closing. We received an offer from a prominent commercial real estate developer. After careful consideration of his offer and weighing several factors such as: the cost for an upgrade of all equipment that is over 20 years old, the cost to do a much needed renovation and re-decorating as well as the constant harassment from the neighbors who decided to by low income homes in a commercially zoned area between 2 major highways next to a restaurant that they were fully aware of existed before they purchased their homes and complain about cars parking in front of their homes on a public street, after milking the Viva Loco cow all it was worth the last 20 years and taking all of that into consideration it was time to take the money off the table and cash out. Regarding the building violations we kept the town off of our back for nearly 10 years it was time to liquidate our assets and move on. Thank you Bellmore for an amazing 20 year run.
larry July 07, 2012 at 05:17 PM
the homes arent 'low income",,but yes,,they do adjoin a commercial zone and when buying there the buyer should anticipate some cars parking,,,but being a good neighbor isnt a challenge,,its our goal!We need to be in a partnership with our neighbors and create value for all...again,,thats our goal!
beth landers July 07, 2012 at 06:02 PM
no loss at all,,,hope an actual good restaurant opens there,,,
ted July 08, 2012 at 05:25 PM
ted July 08, 2012 at 05:33 PM
I have owned 2 pizzeria's in Bellmore between 84 and 02, i have owned on the north shore and in brooklyn i am currently retired, Bellmore is not an easy place to do business in, the people are low rent, even in the supposed wealthy south "new money" when ever an applebees is the busiest restaurant in town you have to ask yourself how much trashier can the area get! The average Bellmore resident has no clue about food other than how to order the cheapest item on the menu, split the dish between 6 people and then make a phony complaint to get something for free. Every single restaurant owner I speak with in the area all have EXACTLY the same stories. My advice to any future merchant for that area is stick to the north shore, they have real money and are a hell of a lot classier!! They also some what of a grasp of the culinary arts rather than bargain hunting as if they were at some cut rate flea market.
larry July 08, 2012 at 06:18 PM
well..if you look at Atonettes..Matteos,Per un Angelo,Villa D' aqua..Santorini,Bella Notte,Xaga,and near by ..Smokin Als BBQ,Asian Moon,Don Juans..,you will see very successful restaurants..and most are prospering..as a matter of fact, some are very hi end.True the north shore may be have a bit higher income levels but the south shore resident is also a great customer..many businesses do very well on the south shore.
larry July 14, 2012 at 12:46 PM
update,,there is a great deal of interest on the site,,,something good is bound to be there!We are working hard to bring something great to our community!
Lourdes Olivo Adams September 24, 2012 at 04:49 AM
Wow! I am so sad and sorry to hear some of the comments made, but I respect them all. I also want to apologize to the neighbors who thought Viva Loco was a burden more than an asset to the area. Larry, congratulations on your new business, and I pray you do well. I actually can fill you in on the original reason I suggested to Gino that we open Viva Loco there when that area was a ghost town. I remember my favorite neighbor across the street, the owner of Anderson Spring, miss him dearly. I must say that I agree with the Concerned Neighbor's Post about the taxes, the previous tenant was also in the arrears with the taxes that its the reason Gino had to evict them. Granted 20 years ago the economy was not so bad, but taxes were always so high. And we were trying to give to our customers really good food at an affordable price. It was part of the concept along with " Not fast food, but good food Fast". I saw the area booming before anyone else did, including Gino. There was nothing, I mean absolutely nothing around. My favorite times was Halloween, Gino and I and his children would make tombs stone out of Styrofoam and but all the Xmanagers name on it example ( RIP Bill DOE). We went through so many in the first year. Oh and that article by Joan or Joann Starks was awesome for our grand opening. Larry, I really believe that the town will make a come back. If you would like to shoot the breeze on some more history of Viva Loco, I can help you with that. I was the original creator of Viva Loco, along with Gino. And I challenge anyone to say otherwise. Not many know the History, very few close and dear to Gino. And I love talking about the old times at Viva Loco, so often with my family, who also helped and worked with us at Viva Loco. My brother helped built the first and second location. Email me at adamszn@aol.com. Love to share all the endless funny stories, God bless you all. Lourdes Adams


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