WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP — The owner of a popular Mexican restaurant in the Wilkes-Barre area hopes to have the place reopened in a matter of weeks after a fire there Sunday night.
But he said the damage to La Tolteca couldn’t have worse timing. The busiest weekend of the year – Cinco de Mayo – is only days away.
La Tolteca owner Carlos Deleon showed us around his restaurant where it seemed as if time stood still.
Full beers, appetizers, and half-eaten meals were still on the table.
Flames hit this popular spot in the Wilkes-Barre area during Sunday dinner time. Deleon said the place was packed.
“There was a lot of people here so the main thing, everyone was safe got out and no one got hurt,” said Deleon.
The owner said the restaurant cleared out and firefighters were on the scene not long after the fire started. They were able to keep it from spreading throughout the building.
Inside ceilings are ripped out. In the kitchen area especially there is fire, smoke and water damage.
All this comes just a week before the busiest day of the year for Mexican restaurants: Cinco de Mayo. And this year, it was going to be a whole weekend of celebrating.
“The timing, it’s the worst timing you can think of, Cinco de Mayo coming up, Memorial Day weekend, is pretty bad,” said Deleon.
Firefighters believe the fire started in the back where some cardboard recyclables are stored. They think someone dropped a cigarette or something like that there. The fire started, traveled up the wall, into the eaves and then inside the building.
Jane Charles of Wilkes-Barre had to head elsewhere for lunch. She found the place closed when she showed up.
“I was shocked. I came up here to eat good,” said Charles. “I love it, love the Mexican Food. That’s a shame.”
The restaurant has a lot of loyal customers. David Petroski stopped by at lunchtime, too.
“I was shocked. My fiancée and I come up here a lot and we enjoy it. I just figured I’d come up and see what kind of damage there was and curious to see when it was going to open again because we enjoy it so much.”
The owner of La Tolteca was hoping to meet with his insurance agent Monday afternoon, then get started bouncing back. He hopes to be open again in a few weeks.