El Arco Iris, a family-style Mexican restaurant on York Blvd., announced via Facebook over the weekend of Feb. 11 that the restaurant will be permanently closed. Jesse Gomez, who co-owns the restaurant with his mother, Angie Montes, said that while an official date is yet to be decided, he expects to close doors within the next five to seven weeks. The two decided to close so that Montes can enjoy a well-deserved retirement after working at the family business since age 13. Located within a short drive from campus, El Arco Iris has satisfied community members’ and Occidental students’ mole cravings for decades.
As the restaurant prepares to close, the LA-based real estate developer Coda Equities, who purchased the location, is strategizing how to best use the property. Coda Equities has not finalized decisions, but Jonah Garb, co-owner of Coda Equities, expressed the company’s willingness to be considerate of community wishes when deciding on a new tenant, according to The Eastsider.
The legacy of El Arco Iris began when Gustavo and Irene Montes opened the restaurant in a small storefront 50 years ago. The couple was committed to bringing the cuisine they grew up with in Queretaro, Mexico to Los Angeles. With Irene as head chef, the family of 10 launched the business. Montes and each of her seven siblings helped her parents run the business. She started waitressing in her teens and later bought the restaurant from her parents with one of her brothers. Managing the business has consumed Montes since its opening.
“She worked for one year in her early twenties at Wells Fargo as a teller, but other than that she has always worked there,” Gomez said.
Under her management, the business continued to expand. After several moves, El Arco Iris settled on its current location between Productos Naturales San Jose, a natural food store, and The Hive, an LA-based salon. Inside, the restaurant has cozy booths and a full-service bar. The casual atmosphere and consistently satisfying food draw regulars who have continued to return for generations. Neighboring businesses have become customers as well.
“It’s helpful for my staff to be able to grab a taco or a burrito without having to go very far,” Charles Renn, owner of The Hive, said.
Although the closure of El Arco Iris is a bittersweet end to a saga, Gomez is proud of the restaurant’s success throughout the years. He believes its ability to thrive and please the community serves as a testament to the quality of the restaurant. Located in a city that is constantly developing and changing, he feels that providing continual service for over 50 years is an accomplishment. El Arco Iris became more than just a business for Gomez, Montes and the family.
“At some point, it’s not just about business and about making money,” Gomez said. “It’s really about continuing those relationships that we’ve had forever because that place, for us, was an extension of our home. Those customers and guests … they’re family and friends. We’ve seen their kids grow up and their grandkids grow up. It’s a special place that’s going to be missed.”