Some are blaming the King Street Pilot Project for the shut-down of some of the more vulnerable businesses along King West. Los Colibris & El Caballitos used to be two very popular Mexican restaurants in the Entertainment District.
Shortly after the King Street transit project began, both restaurants noticed a slowdown in business. Come December 2018, both Los Colibris & El Caballitos became the latest names added to the growing list of restaurants and businesses who’ve had to shut their doors.
Despite being called “one of Toronto’s best Mexican restaurants”, Los Colibris & El Caballitos suffered from lagging sales and could not generate enough revenue in the current era of King Street to justify continuing on. As property taxes have continued to rise in the area, this only served to put them under a crunch as well.
Los Colibris, was located at 220 King West and known as a highly refined Mexican restaurant. It very-much maintained a focus on traditional Mexican recipes. The bar and lounge were absolutely beautiful, and menu items were fresh, well-made, and commonly originating from family recipes having existed for generations.
Los Colibris notified their employees in early November of the impending shutdown. The letter provided to employees was apologetic but gave no reasoning regarding why they were shutting down.
El Caballito existed right beneath its sister restaurant and since 2014, became well-known for its tequilas, scratch-made tortillas, and for embodying a unique Mexican aesthetic uncommon to the sports bars and pre-theatre dining centered restaurants occupying the area.
The building, was often packed until last call. As King Street continued to experience change with the accompanying pilot project and increased pressure from property taxes, Los Colirbis and El Caballito eventually had to throw in the towel. This all begs the question, if a restaurant on King Street which offers high-class customer service, a great variety of menu items, and is able to build a reputation in the community for its warm and welcoming atmosphere – and after all that, it still can’t survive – is there hope for new restaurants who are looking to come to King West?
More than a half-dozen businesses have shut doors with blame given to the King Street Pilot Project. As outsiders, we may not know the full extent of the impact the pilot project has on these restaurants, however it certainly does present an interesting future. If these sorts of smaller, community-friendly businesses are not able to afford to exist in these locations, we may see an increasingly corporatized King West in the future.
To Los Colibris and El Caballitos, we raise our glasses.