America's Taco Shop Shuts Down Central Phoenix Location
America’s Taco Shop — one of the Valley’s most popular places for carne asada — shuttered one of its central Phoenix locations this week.
The restaurant had been located along 7th Avenue between Indian School and Camelback roads since 2009, and it was one of the first America’s locations founded by America Corrales and her husband, Terry Bortin. By 2012, America’s and its award-winning carne asada was expanding nationwide under Scottsdale-based franchise company Kahala Corp., which owns other food brands such as Cold Stone Creamery, Samarai Sam’s Teriyaki Grill and Blimpe.
But when the lease for the 7th Avenue location was set to expire this year, the landlord, Ohad Mueller, said the owners opted not to renew.
“I believe that they had difficulties and when it came time to renew the lease, they were not able to stand by the terms of the new lease and they decided to close up,” Mueller said.
Corrales, Bortin and franchise parent Kahala did not respond to multiple requests for comment. But after this story was published, Bortin contacted KJZZ.
He said they left the 7th Avenue store because Mueller wanted to bump the monthly rent from $1,800 to $2,700 — a 50 percent spike.
It was one of the busiest America's locations, and "he was trying to take advantage of a situation when we were doing well," Bortin said.
Last year, the 7th Avenue store, along with the original Phoenix location near 7th Street and McDowell Road and a third store in Tempe were raided by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which arrested 11 employees on suspicion of identity-theft to obtain jobs.
The 7th Avenue location, the original Phoenix location and another in Old Town Scottsdale also lost their liquor licenses earlier this year after the owners failed to renew, according to records with the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control. The owners had also been previously fined multiple times by the liquor department for such violations as past-due taxes and, in one instance, selling alcohol without a license.
Additionally, the original Phoenix location and the now-closed 7th Avenue store have at least $70,000-worth of state and city tax liens, according to public records in the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.
“They had cash problems and they were trying to do things and they couldn’t make it happen,” Mueller said.
Bortin declined to comment on details regarding the tax liens, but said Mueller never had any knowledge of his finances, adding that "we never missed a rent payment."
He said they eventually plan to find another location in central Phoenix in place of the 7th Avenue store.
America’s now has eight Valley locations and others in states such as Maryland, California and Texas. It has received several accolades over the years, including the No. 2 spot on the Top 50 “Breakout Brands for 2013” by Nation’s Restaurant News and ‘Best Carne Asada’ by The Finer Things Blog in 2009.
Updated 10/3/2014 at 4:52 p.m.