The Case of the Disappearing Burrito Shop

On February 20th, El Balazo taqueria at 1654 Haight Street unceremoniously shut its door. The beloved restaurant has remained closed since, frustrating tourists and locals alike.

The close came as a surprise, since the busy burrito shop had recently filed for building permits to install an ADA-compliant lift to its mezzanine. The Notice still hangs in its window.

Our sources have suggested a few things, the first of which is a new, stricter health inspector. However, according to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the restaurant had a score of 100 during its January inspection, and its last violation was a minor one, which occurred in April of 2011.

Other sources have suggested that it may have to do with El Balazo's tendency to hire undocumented workers. A 2008 raid of 11 El Balazo locations in the Bay Area resulted in the firing of 68 undocumented workers, and the arrest of the owners Marino and Nicole Sandoval on charges of harboring and employing undocumented workers, misusing employees' social security numbers, and tax fraud. Ten of those workers were then rehired by Marino, despite a written notice from ICE informing them of the workers' identities. Francisco Sandoval, owner of the Haight Street shop, was charged with and pleaded guilty to tax fraud in 2010. He was ordered to pay back $50,000 to the IRS and sentenced to 3 years' probation.

As a result, the chain closed 3 of its Bay Area locations. The Haight Street shop, however, seemed to be thriving, making last month's closure all the more puzzling.

As of this writing, we have not been able to get in touch with Sandoval or anyone connected to El Balazo, and the restaurant has remained mysteriously quiet. However, we'll keep an eye on things and will let you know of any developments.

In the meantime, we'll see you at Zona Rosa.