Government shutdown halts plans for Lucharitos in Center Moriches

177 Montauk Hwy. Center Moriches

Marc LaMaina’s plans to bring his popular Lucharitos taqueria and tequila bar concept to Center Moriches have come to a halt thanks to the partial government shutdown.

“We have loans with Bridgehampton National Bank and the Small Business Administration and, unfortunately, the SBA is closed right now,” said LaMaina, who runs Lucharitos locations in Greenport and Aquebogue.

“The loans have been approved by both parties. We’re just waiting for the SBA to open so we can get the final signature on it. Hopefully, they’ll open any day now. Everybody’s in the dark.”

LaMaina, 38, of Riverhead, said he had hoped to close on the deal for the new location at 177 Montauk Highway, the former Mustard Seed Farm & Cafe, in mid-January, but now he’s hoping for sometime in February, with a spring grand opening.

“We don’t want to open in the summer,” he said. “It can almost be too busy” to start during that busy season out of the gate. “We want some time to get things right.”

LaMaina said working with the SBA allows him to put less money down on the purchase and free up capital to work on other projects. He’s investing $800,000, including renovations.

“We try to use the SBA program as much as possible,” he said. “I’m happy that it exists. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to move as fast as we move as far as opening new restaurants.”

The flagship Greenport location opened after superstorm Sandy in 2012 and the Aqueboque restaurant opened in 2017.

LaMaina said he plans to add a 400-square-foot addition to the dining room. The restaurant will have 33 seats and eight at the bar. Outdoor seating will also be available.

“We’re hoping to open latest the first week in June,” he said.

Chris Cohen, the owner of the location, described the current situation as “frustrating, frustrating, frustrating,” noting she’s out $12,000 after having to break a rental agreement while she continues to pay for utilities and taxes.

“I took quite a hit having to hold onto it,” she said. “I’m just feeling snowed in.” But she said LaMaina is “a perfect fit for the property. I just want this to go through.”

Regarding the shutdown, she said, “People just don’t realize the impact of this government closing. It’s gotta end.”

Despite the frustration, LaMaina said he’s been heartened by messages of support.

“I just want to let everyone to know we appreciate the love and support we’re getting social media from the Center Moriches community.”