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El Taco on Firestone Shutters; Only Four Locations of Glen Bell’s Second Taco Chain Remain

12:47 PM PDT on August 15, 2018

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]here are only four El Taco eateries left. The tiny restaurant chain, started by Taco Bell founder Glen Bell in 1956, shuttered one of its Downey locations over the weekend due to rising rents.

The popular pink adobe hut-like building on Firestone Boulevard sits on property that was sold in October 2016 for $1.127 million, according to public records. El Taco’s lease on the property ended this month. That’s when the property’s owner raised the rent, according to an El Taco employee.

An El Taco representative told the Downey Patriot that rent price tag skyrocketed to $11,000 a month in rent and $24,000 a year in property tax. “It’s crazy,” Alberto Vazquez told the Patriot, “You’d have to sell at least over $100,000 a month just to get even.”

Vazquez said the El Taco owners could not afford to pay.

Vazquez manages one of the four remaining locations. His restaurant in Downey on Florence Avenue is absorbing a lot of the business from the closure, he said. The other three El Tacos are in San Pedro, Orange and Anaheim.

According to the real estate agent handling the transition, El Taco had not paid rent in some time. Brad Freeman told L.A. Taco that the owners "simply defaulted on terms."

"After much attempt to reason with him, the matter was then handled in the court system," Freeman explained. "They also would not leave the space as they continued to use it without paying any rent.  To be clear none of the local employees knew El Taco Owner was not paying the rent.  Eventually there was a Sheriff lockout, because they did not perform under renegotiated terms as agreed to in court before a judge."

Freeman said that a "new brand" would be opening in the former El Taco soon and that they are trying to "salvage the jobs of those that worked at the location previously."

According to Freeman, there was no rent hike. The only increase was due real estate taxes caused by a reassessment of the property value. That resulted in an extra $1,150 a month, which El Taco refused to pay and then stopped paying rent completely, Freeman said.

" A revised agreement was negotiated in court, but El Taco did not perform on the revised agreement either," Freeman explained. "This El Taco owner ruined his own business on Firestone over $13,800 a year. That is the bottom line."

Glen Bell founded El Taco in Long Beach in 1956 after he sold his shares in Taco Tia, widely considered to be the first taco fast-food restaurant, when his partners refused to expand the San Bernardino eatery (one remains in Redlands). Bell was forced out of San Bernardino by the deal in a non-compete clause. So he settled on Long Beach.

Bell sold the El Taco chain in 1962 to open his first Taco Bell in Downey. The operation has been privately owned by the Downey-based El Taco California, Inc. for the past 60 years.

[UPDATED, Aug. 25]

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