Margaritas Mexican restaurant expands to bigger location; Opening Friday
Long-time local restaurant, Margaritas, is moving to a bigger and better location.
Margaritas, a local staple since 1987, is opening its new location on Emerald Bay Road where Cantina used to be located.
Rafael Aguirre and his wife, Gabriela, came to South Lake Tahoe in 1987 from Mexicali, Baja California in the middle of a snow storm with $20 in their pockets and cowboy boots not fit for the snow. The snow didn’t scare Rafael Aguirre away, in fact, he helped the bus driver put on snow chains during the drive up.
They worked in the service industry, in almost every role a restaurant has to offer until Margaritas went on sale in 2001.
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The couple got loans and cash advances and when he was 37 and she was 31, they bought the restaurant. After the sale was final, the couple worked at Margaritas for free for six months to learn everything they could about the restaurant before taking it over. The previous owner tried to back out and offered to hire them full-time but ended up going through with the sale.
The first few years of owning the business was a breeze.
The couple’s daughter, Blanca Aguirre said the restaurant, “pretty much ran itself.”
Blanca, who was 11 years old at the time, and her older brother, Rafael Jr., worked in the restaurant cleaning tables and washing dishes.
Rafael Sr. recalls Blanca hiding in the corner because the restaurant was so busy.
Rafael Sr. became active in the community, coaching South Lake Tahoe High School’s soccer team for many years while running the restaurant.
Once the economic recession hit, they had to lay off most of their employees and the family did the majority of the work in the restaurant.
They survived the recession and have continued to serve locals over the years.
Hard times hit again last year when Rafael Sr. had to get multiple knee surgeries due to an infection.
Rafael Jr. said hours at the restaurant became inconsistent while the family helped Rafael Sr. recover.
“All the locals worked with us and stayed with us through everything,” Rafael Jr. said.
Despite the hardships, when the cantina went for sale last year, the family jumped at the opportunity to move to a bigger location.
They didn’t qualify for the loan to purchase the building but the previous owners worked with the family to make sure they got into the space.
“This location is more local based, our clientele lives closer to this location,” Rafael Jr. said.
They are also excited about the bigger interior, more parking and the full bar, which their previous location did not have.
The family has been spending the last few months preparing the location for opening. They’ve replaced carpets, painted, and gotten new fixtures and kitchen equipment.
Despite recovering from surgery, Rafael Sr. hasn’t been able to stay away.
“He was in the kitchen in a wheelchair painting,” said Gabriela Aguirre.
He said when he wasn’t wheeling around the kitchen, he was babysitting the grandchildren, which he was OK with.
While talking to the Tribune, Rafael Sr.’s 3-year-old grandson sat curled up in the grandfather’s lap.
“It’s almost time to have you wash dishes,” Rafael Sr. jokingly said to his grandson.
The Aguirres pride themselves on being a family-operated restaurant.
“We provide more of a family and local vibe than some of the big businesses,” Rafael Jr. said.
“We put more love into the actual business,” Blanca Aguirre added.
Margaritas will have a soft opening on Friday, Nov. 1, and will plan a hard opening for once they get their liquor license.
The address is 765 Emerald Bay Road.
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