Downtown restaurant The Local closed temporarily on Oct. 10 citing COVID’s effect on the service industry, but owners say they plan to reopen next month.
The Local is known for offering a unique spin on traditional Mexican cuisine. It was established in November 2019, meaning after only three months, it was shut down due to COVID in early 2020. Ever since then, pandemic restrictions stifled the vision that those like co-owner Alex Russell have for The Local.
“We’re going to increase our operating hours, refocus our attention to the menu, the culture, the beverages, the overall experience now that we really have the opportunity to provide all of those again,” Russell said. “During COVID, it’s so much been one or the other.”
Russell revealed The Local’s updated vision during an all-staff meeting on Oct. 9. Over half of the staff was able to stay with The Local, including the back-of-house staff. Stopgap checks were offered to staff members who had to part ways due to these changes. Retraining began Oct. 19.
“We were really hoping and presented it in a way that we were hoping to keep all of the staff and sort of go through a re-onboarding process,” Russell said. “You have to agree to continue with this job with new operating hours, new uniforms, a new menu that they’re going to have to relearn, a new general manager.”
During this temporary closure, co-owner and executive chef Cody Enriquez has his focus on revamping the menu. If nothing else, he wants The Local to diversify the type of cuisine offered in Abilene and pair it with exceptional customer service.
“To give them a little piece of something they might not have experienced – that was always something that we catered to,” Enriquez said. “All the favorites that people love us for, those aren’t being altered because that’s the culture.”
Beverage director Jerron Johnson is exploring ways to make The Local’s drink menu even more culturally influenced and exclusive to their establishment. Educating his customers allows him to bring a new palate to Abilene.
“If I can show you what the Old Fashioneds look like in Oaxaca, Mexico, that will definitely tailor more towards what it is that we’re trying to do here, introduce that spin,” Johnson said. “So if you don’t have your passport and you can’t make it out there, we brought that back to you.”
This trailblazing team of three is eager to reopen and serve the various needs of the downtown demographic – from the breakfast and lunch break crowd to the date night couples. Enriquez has likened the temporary closure to repairing a plane – it can’t be done in the air, he said. The plane must land before it can take off again.
“I think that’s what this new breath of fresh air brings to me is another way to reestablish the culture that we’ve set,” Enriquez said. “To stomp both feet in the ground like ‘We’re still here, and we’re not going anywhere.’”
The Local plans to reopen no later than Nov. 11. Its updated hours will be from 10 a.m. to midnight Tuesday to Saturday, closing for a transition period from 3-4 p.m. An all-day menu, as well as options exclusive to brunch hours and dinner hours, will be available. Follow @thelocalabi on Instagram for updates.