By Chase Castle
Foodies anticipating the opening of the Asian-fusion restaurant Tacopocalypse at the Iowa River Landing are about to experience some fallout.
Des Moines-based Tacopocalypse will no longer be opening at the IRL, according to multiple sources familiar with the business. The restaurant had hoped to open a location in Coralville last fall.
Chef and owner Sam Auen started Tacopocalypse as “street food,” vending unusual mixes of Asian and Mexican grub from different locations throughout Des Moines. He moved into a permanent location in the city in 2013 before relocating to a larger space the following year.
Interest in Tacopocalypse surged with the restaurant’s appearance on the Food Network program, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, in January 2015. Mr. Auen announced plans to open at the IRL in June, but was unable to complete the expansion.
Deanna Trumbull is an independent consultant based in Iowa City who handles leasing at the Iowa River Landing, a public-private partnership between the city of Coralville and OliverMcMillan, a San Diego-based developer.
“We loved the concept and would love to see them there,” Ms. Trumbull said of Tacopocalypse. “But …. from my perspective, as a director of leasing for the IRL, my responsibility is to get someone else in that space.”
She said the restaurant was scheduled to open in the roughly 2,300 square-foot storefront at 920 E. Second Ave. late last year, with a required opening date no later than Feb. 1. The business’s triple net lease was set for a five-year term at $3,399 per month, wherein the Tacopocalypse LLC would have been responsible for property taxes, building insurance and maintenance costs at the space.
Just weeks away from that deadline with no interior construction underway, Ms. Trumbull said OliverMcMillan and the city are seeking a new tenant. As of June last year, the city had received no other proposals for the space.
Mr. Auen did not respond to a request for comment, although a representative with the restaurant told the CBJ the restaurant no longer plans to open in Coralville.
Ms. Trumbull said the change in plans could be due in part to pending litigation. In September, an attorney representing Disability Rights Iowa filed suit against Tacopocalypse on behalf of Emmanuel Smith, a West Des Moines resident who uses a motorized wheelchair due to a congenital bone disorder. Mr. Smith cannot enter the Des Moines restaurant, the suit contends, due to barriers blocking the doorway, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The civil complaint says Mr. Auen was notified of the alleged violation in May 2014, but no significant changes have been made. He has until Feb. 11 to file a formal response.
Last year, Mr. Auen also opened Krunkwich Ramen House in Des Moines, and plans to soon open a third restaurant, Crust Punks Pizza. According to that restaurant’s Facebook page, Crust Punks was scheduled to open in September but that opening has been delayed.
“We love the concept, and we certainly understand he has some constraints in the Des Moines area,” Ms. Trumbull said. “But at this time, we don’t want to wait on getting great food and great lunch opportunities in the district.”
She said she expects more commercial tenants to move in as the city reveals more details of its proposed 7,000-seat sports and entertainment arena at the IRL. In the meantime, she said the city is in conversation with at least two new prospective tenants at the IRL, including a national women’s fashion store that would be located next to Von Maur.
“We’re trying to bring some shopping and retail in the area that’s currently not here, with some specialty retail and some boutiques,” she said.
Ms. Trumbull hopes to make an announcement on the tenants in the coming weeks.