Centro Taco Closing in Downtown, Returning as a Pop-Up

After just three months in business, Richard Hales is doing a complete rework of his Centro Taco brand.

The restaurant, which opened in July at Hales' former Sakaya Kitchen downtown location (125 SE Third Ave.), is closing and the owner is making major kitchen changes, Hales confirmed the closing, though he says he has no set date for the last day of service at the downtown location.

That's not to say Centro Taco is gone. In fact, Hales has some grand plans for the taco restaurant. "We have a great concept. I think we have a really good restaurant, and I just have to do what I have to do to make it a success."

Hales said the decision to find a new location was purely based on business. "Our lease was up in January, and the landlord convinced us to stay, and that they were bringing in better tenants. Things just didn't work out as planned."

In a recent review of Cento Taco, New Times' Valeria Nekhim noted the lull in traffic at the restaurant in the evening, saying, "If you head to Centro during the day, you'll find the colorful and airy eatery brimming with office workers. Arrive in the evening, and only a handful of tables will be occupied."

Nekhim also noted that, although downtown Miami may be quiet after work hours, but Centro was a value worth sticking around for after the office day was through. "True, downtown isn't a happening area at night, but Centro is worth the detour. After all, how often does a restaurant come along that offers free valet parking, friendly service, dinner for about $20 per person (sans alcohol), and food that tastes much more expensive than it costs? Not often enough."

When Centro Taco closes in the next few weeks, Hales will keep it alive as a pop-up until he finds a new space in South Beach. The chef says he's already working on making that a reality. "I always wanted to be in South Beach."

As a pop-up, Centro Taco will take over Angelina's in Midtown during evening hours. The exact times and days of the week the pop-up will operate are still in the works.

Another big change is the announcement that James Seyba will part ways with Centro Taco. Hales says the split was amicable. "Finalizing leases take time. I gave Jamie [Seyba] the choice to stay at the pop-up and then move with me when Centro Taco moved to its new location. I told him to go home and think about what he wanted to do. He came back and said a pop-up wasn't in his future. Although I had great plans for Jamie, I understood completely."

Hales is also looking out for the rest of the Centro Taco employees. "We are taking care of our employees. There were nights that it was very slow and we all stuck together. Luckily we are a company that has options."

Hales says that some Centro Taco employees will continue to work at the pop-up, while others will be moved to Sakaya Kitchen and Blackbrick, with no jobs lost. Though there are no hard and fast dates to all these changes, Hales is optimistic about Centro Taco's future. "There's a lot of exciting things going on."

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