Salt Lake City business owner says his neighborhood restaurant can’t survive 900 South construction, so the Mexican eatery has closed

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Alamexo Cantina in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017.

A Salt Lake City business owner says his 18-month-old Mexican eatery on 900 South won’t survive the disruption caused by an upcoming road improvement project — so he has decided to close the restaurant permanently.

“It’s going to be a mess, and I can’t survive it,” said chef Matt Lake, owner of Alamexo Cantina, 1059 E. 900 South. “No one is going to sit on a patio while there is dirt in the air.”

Lake said the building owners have let him out of the lease so he can focus on his first restaurant, Alamexo Mexican Kitchen at 268 S. State. “If I didn’t have such great landlords,” Lake said, “this would probably sink my company.”

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Alamexo Cantina in Salt Lake City Friday December 1, 2017.

Lake announced the closure of Alamexo Cantina last week by posting a handwritten note on the door. It blamed the looming construction and " the tight margins that all restaurateurs operate on," as reasons to close.

“For us, this is not goodbye," the note said, “but a change of venue and we hope to see all of you soon.”

Employees from the 900 South location have been given jobs at the downtown shop, Lake said. The additional staffing will allow that location — near the Gallivan Center — to extend its operating hours to include Sunday.

Alamexo Cantina, which opened in October 2017, was billed as a casual, family-style dining experience one might find at a market in Mexico. It offered a lively, vibrant vibe, with a Mexican-tiled bar, colorful walls and an extensive margarita menu.

Lake said while it was busy on weekends, the lack of customers during the week affected the bottom line.

The 900 South reconstruction project is expected to begin in April and last six months, said Adan Carrillo, a civic engagement specialist with Salt Lake City.

The deteriorating asphalt street will be replaced with longer-lasting concrete, he said. Crews will upgrade sewer and other utilities and create a roundabout at the five-leg intersection at 900 South, 1100 East, and Gilmer Drive to improve traffic flow through the area.

As part of this reconstruction, a new bike path will be added on the south side of the street, part of the 9-Line Trail. Pedestrian crossings will be enhanced and new landscaping installed.

Street parking is expected to remain mostly the same. Carrillo said.

The $3 million project is being funded through impact fees charged to developers, Class C road funds the state gives to communities and a Salt Lake County active transportation grant.

The project was supposed to begin in 2018, Carrillo added, but was postponed for a year after residents and businesses wanted more time to explore traffic options.

“I hope that before any business considers closing, they contact us, so we can work out a way to accommodate their concerns," he said. “We want them to flourish, and a project like this will only allow them to thrive.”

Utah chef/owner Matt Lake hopes to replicate the casual, family-style dining experience one might find in a market in Mexico with his new restaurant Alamexo Cantina.