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UPDATE: Birmingham restaurant Sol y Luna closes after 16 years, will open for special events only
Sol y Luna opened in Birmingham's Lakeview District in late 1997. (Birmingham News file photo)
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Sol y Luna, the Latin-influenced tapas restaurant that chef Guillermo Castro opened in Birmingham's Lakeview District in 1997, has closed, one of Castro's brothers confirmed to AL.com this morning.
Castro , but his brothers Jorge and Alex Castro continued to run both Sol y Luna and his Cantina Tortilla Grill after his death.
"For all of the family -- for me, Alex,and for Gabe and Marcus, Guillermo's sons -- it's been really hard," Jorge Castro said of their decision to close Sol y Luna. "But it's a decision you have to make, and we feel it was the best thing to do."
For the time being, the restaurant will be available for private parties and special events only, Castro said.The Castro brothers briefly closed Sol y Luna last fall to update the restaurant's look and refresh the menu.
They said at the time to honor their late brother's memory.
"I'm putting my heart and soul into this because I remember my brother starting this business," Alex Castro, the executive chef at Sol y Luna, told AL.com in October 2012. "We are very sentimental when it comes to my brother Guillermo. We want to honor him."
However, the restaurant has struggled, Jorge Castro said this morning, and with the influx of bars in the area around Seventh Avenue South and 29th Street in recent years, Sol y Luna did not seem to fit in anymore.
"It had become more bars and late-night life," he said of the Lakeview scene.The Castro family's more casual Cantina Tortilla Grill, located a few blocks away in the Martin Biscuit Building on Second Avenue South, remains open.
Longtime customers have empathized with the family's decision to close Sol y Luna, Jorge Castro said.
"There is a lot of sadness from customers that have been following
us for years, but they understand it is something we needed to do," he said.
The restaurant could possibly reopen in another location, Castro added.
"Hopefully, in the future, we can relocate it somewhere," he said. "If the right opportunity comes, we will do it."A native of Guadalajara, Mexico, Guillermo Castro helped redefine what Birmingham diners thought of Mexican food when he opened Sol y Luna 16 years ago -- introducing them to small-plate tapas dining and an extensive selection of exotic tequilas served in a hip, upscale setting.
"People thought I was out of my mind," he said in an interview with The Birmingham News in 2004. "But the excitement it created in the city showed me how the industry is moving toward Latin culture."
Castro later opened a sister restaurant, Los Angeles, in the same block as Sol y Luna on Seventh Avenue South, but it closed a few years ago.
The French bistro Cafe de Paris moved into the former Los Angeles space in December 2008,
Updated at 11:33 a.m. CDT Saturday, Nov. 2, to add comments from Jorge Castro.
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