LAKE JACKSON — The news of El Chico’s lease termination by Brazos Mall management surprised the Mexican restaurant chain’s president and CEO Don Dungy, he said.
“I received a short — very short — letter from them two weeks ago,” Dungy said. “I haven’t received a call from mall management or ownership, but I have received a letter saying that they signed a deal with Cavenders and that we have to be out by the first of the year.”
The restaurant has been in the same location for 44 years, and the loss of its lease after decades of business leaves Dungy feeling pained, he said.
“We’ve done business there for 40-plus years. I’ve been with the company for 38 years,” Dungy said. “I go to that mall. I go to that restaurant several times a year. I know everyone there, so to lose a restaurant that I’ve operated for this long is a very difficult thing for me.”
Dungy hopes to relocate the restaurant within Lake Jackson if possible, but as the decision came so suddenly, it’s too soon to tell what the future holds, he said.
“For me to be able to come up with a definitive answer to that right now would be impossible, but we’ve done business there for 44 years and we love the market and we love our people there,” Dungy said. “I can’t say what the crystal ball says because it’s just happened.”
Business is business and he can’t comment on how someone else runs theirs, Dungy said of the mall’s decision to terminate the lease.
There’s nothing he can say to make it better for his employees at this point, Dungy said.
“Those people are like family to us. I’ve known Bruce, I’ve known Nancy forever,” Dungy said. “So this is a very hard situation for me. It has just happened and we do not have a plan as of yet, because like I said, it just happened. But we love that market. I mean, we wouldn’t have been there 44 years if we didn’t love the market, so we certainly hope to be back but I don’t have any plans at this point.”
El Chico, which opened in the mall in 1978 and is one of Lake Jackson’s oldest-serving restaurant, will lose its home when its lease ends in 90 days.
“Ninety days — 90 days in this business is it’s like overnight,” he said.
As of Tuesday, a public statement about Cavender’s and the relocation of other Brazos Mall businesses has not been released by mall management or owners.