Houston’s Cinco de Mayo a lifeline for local restaurants and bars

Cinco de Mayo 2022, a day to celebrate Mexican history and culture, will also be an economic lifeline for restaurants and bars in Houston.

The city’s hotel industry, still shaken by the pandemic and two years of thwarted vacations, is banking on Cinco this year to regain an economic footing.

“It’s one of our three best days of the year,” said Monica Richards, co-owner of Picos d’Arnaldo Richards, the Mexican restaurant named after her father. “It’s an important day for the bottom line.”

After being canceled for the past two years, Picos is bringing back its annual marquee fiesta — a tent-parking party with an all-day happy hour, food and drink specials, and mariachi entertainment on May 5. This year’s Cinco celebration feels long overdue, Richards said.

“I felt the town wake up during the rodeo,” she said. “People are happy to be out and around each other. It’s like a continuous meeting for us. We plan to make it really fun.

Following the return this year of major public events such as the Rodeo, St. bars to bank and waiters and bartenders to earn extra money.

Arnaldo Richards’ Picos are bringing back their tent-parking party on Cinco de Mayo with festivities starting at 2 p.m.

Peaks / Peaks

“Cinco de Mayo provides a substantial increase in revenue for Texas restaurants and bars each year, and in a particularly hard-hit hospitality industry working to rebuild after the pandemic, this annual increase in sales is more important than ever,” said Joe Monastero, COO of the Texas Restaurant Association. “Many restaurants offer specials, but many don’t — it’s going to be a busy day anyway, especially at favorite Tex-Mex establishments. Here in Texas, our diversity is our strength, and Cinco de Mayo is a direct reflection of that.

Cinco de Mayo falls on Thursday, the unofficial start of the weekend.

“It’s our biggest day of the year if it comes on the right day,” said Niel Morgan, owner of Legacy Restaurants which operates Original Ninfa’s on Navigation and its sister restaurant in the Galleria neighborhood. “It won’t make or destroy our year, but for us it’s a huge day.”

While both Original Ninfa locations will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo, the Uptown location is hosting a “Top Chef Houston” watch party on May 5 to mark the episode which will include a visit to Ninfa’s on Navigation, with chef/contestant of Houston’s Evelyn Garcia still banging on the Bravo series.

“People come flocking to Cinco de Mayo whether or not they know what they’re celebrating,” Morgan said. “It’s like St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a festival day. People of Mexican descent are more aware of what this means.

What does it mean? Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day, as some might believe, and it’s not even widely celebrated in Mexico. Cinco de Mayo marks the victory of the Mexican army over France in the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War on May 5, 1862. A minor holiday in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo emerged in the United States as an event fueled by tequila where Mexican culture is recognized with margaritas and Mexican food and music.

Molina's Cantina restaurants in Houston and Fulshear will offer $6.50 Molina's Margarita specialties all day on Cinco de Mayo.

Molina’s Cantina restaurants in Houston and Fulshear will offer $6.50 Molina’s Margarita specialties all day on Cinco de Mayo.

Isabelle Protomartir / Isabelle Protomartir

Although it’s not celebrated in Mexico much outside of Puebla, Cinco de Mayo is definitely a party in Houston, said Ana Beaven, owner of Curchara, the Mexican-style bistro in Montrose. And that includes Cinco celebrations in restaurants and bars that aren’t necessarily Mexican or Tex-Mex.

While she wants the industry as a whole to be more informed about the holidays “in an effort to attract more Mexican customers,” Beaven said she has no problem with the city’s bars and restaurants. , whatever their allegiance, by participating in the Cinco action. .

“Some restaurants celebrated Chinese New Year, and maybe they have nothing to do with China. It’s a free market and everyone can do what they want,” said Beaven, born and raised in Mexico City: “It’s just if they want to do it, let them do it.”

For its part, Beaven brings back its annual Lucha Libre party, canceled due to the pandemic for two years, on May 6. Cuchara erects an outdoor arena for evening Mexican wrestling matches in addition to an outdoor bar and food stalls. It’s an expensive proposition for Cuchara who, in addition to creating the physical space for the party, pays for the travel and lodging of his Mexican luchador talent.

“We spend so much there,” she said. “But it’s definitely worth it because of the experience. It is an investment we are making for the future.

The Savoir restaurant in the heights offers Cinco de Mayo cocktails for $9 including a mango margarita.

The Savoir restaurant in the heights offers Cinco de Mayo cocktails for $9 including a mango margarita.

Barrett Doke / Barrett Doke

This year, Cinco de Mayo means even more to the hospitality industry still recovering from the pandemic. Especially the bars: on-site tequila sales double on Cinco de Mayo.

“It’s a drinking holiday, and we all know booze is a higher profit margin than food,” said Steve Sharma, owner of El Big Bad, the downtown bar and restaurant specializing in drinks. infused tequila. “Most people will have more than one drink, so it’s a good opportunity for sales and for staff to tip.”

While Cinco de Mayo nights were once limited to Mexican restaurants and bars, the date has become, like National Tequila Day and National Margarita Day, a way for bars to boost sales.

“It’s a bit weird, but at the same time it’s an opportunity,” Sharma said. “The bar industry has had a hard time. All the expense and effort put into Cinco de Mayo celebrations will be recouped. They will get a little boost, and why not?

greg.morago@chron.com

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