Tacos Sinaloa works to stay afloat during COVID-19 pandemic

Photo of Tacos Sinaloa
Catherine Wallin/File
Despite her restaurant facing an 80% revenue decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the owner of the Tacos Sinaloa Berkeley location, Marlem Bueno, is determined to not lay off employees.

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After opening its doors in Berkeley in 2015 to a busy crowd searching for authentic Mexican food, Tacos Sinaloa is now struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

An extension of its original location in Oakland, Tacos Sinaloa opened on Telegraph Avenue in hopes of attracting Berkeley’s many hungry customers. Marlem Bueno, owner of the Tacos Sinaloa restaurant in Berkeley, said the Berkeley location has primarily relied on the foot traffic of UC Berkeley students.

With the onset of the pandemic, Bueno said the restaurant’s revenue has decreased by 80%. Bueno, however, is committed to continuing to employ the restaurant’s entire staff throughout the pandemic. To prevent layoffs, Bueno has reduced workers’ hours from 40 to 20 hours per week.

“It’s important for us to be able to assist our community and our current employees,” Bueno said. “We’ve tried everything that we can to keep our employees.”

To comply with safety measures and guidelines brought about by the pandemic, the restaurant has been undergoing changes. Bueno said staff is working to ensure customer safety, which includes readjusting training protocols and enforcing social distancing.

She added that the restaurant now closes at 8 p.m. and will adjust hours if there is an influx of customers by closing at 10 p.m.

UC Berkeley graduate Diego Lucas said Tacos Sinaloa became an integral part of their Berkeley experience. Lucas recalled memories of eating the restaurant’s food while studying late at night and added that speaking Spanish with the friendly staff made an initially unfamiliar city “feel like home.”

“During these times we should be giving more love to Tacos (Sinaloa) as it’s one of the few Latinx owned places in Berkeley,” Lucas said in a Twitter message.

UC Berkeley senior Christal Bermudez said she has been going to the restaurant since her freshman year. The restaurant became a staple food spot for her because of the staff’s kindness and the restaurant’s affordable prices.

Bermudez said she was disappointed in Tacos Sinaloa’s potential closing and added that she has noticed many original Berkeley restaurants closing down and being replaced by boba shops or dispensaries.

Tacos Sinaloa is currently coming up with ideas concerning how to stay in business, Bueno said. She is thinking of ways to make the restaurant appear more inviting in hopes of attracting people outside of the Berkeley community.

Bueno added that she noticed a neighboring shoe store, which has been open in Berkeley for many years, has also gone out of business due to strain caused by the pandemic. She hopes that more community members continue to not only engage and support Tacos Sinaloa, but also other businesses nearby.

“It’s really uncertain,” Bueno said. “For us, we are doing everything that we can to stay afloat and open.”

Contact Kelly Nguyen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KellyNguyen_DC.