Once popular Mexican restaurant on comeback trail

Viva Mercado’s may rise from the ashes this fall.

In November, the Mexican restaurant formerly at Rainbow Boulevard and Spring Mountain Road may reopen in another location if everything goes as planned.

On Dec. 31, longtime Las Vegas restaurateur Bobby Mercado shut the doors to his beloved Viva Mercado’s for what seemingly was the last time. He’d been having trouble making rent and struggled throughout the recession. Mercado lost his house and even sold his furniture to make payroll.

Eventually, he lost the fight.

Now living in Minnesota with his in-laws, wife and four children, Mercado is planning a comeback with the help of longtime customers-turned-investors.

“I’m blessed these people are trying to help me get started again,” Mercado said.

The plan is to open a 3,500-square-foot restaurant at Durango Drive and Desert Inn Road, half the size of the previous restaurant, just two miles away. Mercado wants to stay roughly in the same neighborhood of his Spring Valley customer base and be closer to those who have moved to Summerlin.

He signed a five-year lease with two five-year options and is in the process of negotiating operator agreements. Once finished, the building remodel can start. The entrepreneur is shooting for a late 2013 opening, and his new eatery will occupy the space vacated by the closure of another restaurant.

“We’re incredibly grateful to be in discussions with such a kind and grateful restaurant operator with such a loyal following. It’s such a perfect fit for the shopping center,” said Matt Nelson, vice president, J.A. Kennedy Real Estate Co.

When Viva Mercado’s closed, the restaurant employed 42 people, most of whom, he said, are working for other Las Vegas Mexican restaurants.

“Most of them are waiting for me to get going again,” Mercado said.

Viva Mercado’s existed for 23 years in the valley, and the eatery has its fans.

“I didn’t want to lose my clientele. I didn’t know what to do,” Mercado said.

He turned to social media to keep the dialog going. On the front doors of the closed restaurant, someone painted “Closed, See you on Facebook.” The space vacated by Mercado is still empty.

Using social media helped the restaurant’s customers stay informed about a potential reopening, and it also helped Mercado cope with the stress. The Viva Mercado’s Facebook page has 992 likes and many people have posted about how much they miss the food.

“I went through a period where the sun wasn’t shining. Facebook gave me the courage and motivation to get going again,” Mercado said. “I want people to know I appreciate (the support). It’s been encouraging and it’s helped me to get over this. It hit me really hard.”

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.