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.