El Rayo Taqueria, the popular Mexican restaurant in a former gas station on York Street in Portland, will close at the end of September to make way for a proposed redevelopment of the property.

Tod Dana, co-owner of El Rayo, announced the news Tuesday, the day after the property’s owner, J.B. Brown & Sons, submitted plans with the city to build a five-story residential building on the site of the old Citgo gas station that El Rayo has occupied since May 2009.

But El Rayo is not abandoning Portland. Dana said the owners are looking for new space in the city to reopen the restaurant.

El Rayo was invited to be part of the redevelopment of the property, but Dana said the restaurant wouldn’t be a good fit with the new space. He said the style of the development, the parking arrangement and the inability to have outdoor seating “made the proposition unattractive.”

“For the last few years, we’ve been working closely with developer J.B. Brown to try and find a suitable place to relocate the restaurant,” Dana said. “One of our challenges is to find a location with significant outdoor seating; our customers really enjoyed that on York Street, so that’s our goal, but we do plan to open again in Portland soon.”

Dana said they’re considering two prospective locations, one of which is another property owned by J.B. Brown & Sons, which owns about 30 properties in the greater Portland area.


Both the old Citgo gas station where El Rayo Taqueria is currently located and an adjacent building will be demolished to make way for the development.

Renderings of the new building show a mix of commercial and residential uses. The first floor would have 17,000 square feet of commercial space, which could be an office, restaurant or other retail business, according to Vincent Veroneau, J.B. Brown & Sons’ CEO.

The rest of the building will consist of 63 market-rate apartments with between one and three bedrooms. Veroneau said rents will depend on several factors, but it will probably work out to be on average $2 per square foot.

The units will be up to 25 percent larger than average size, he said. For example, a two-bedroom unit will be closer to 1,200 square feet than the average two-bedroom apartment, which is 900 to 1,000 square feet.

“Our goal is to provide market-rate housing that is a little larger in size than what’s been developed recently,” he said.

The parking garage will be located behind the building and will have the capacity for 207 cars. In October 2013, the city’s planning board approved a rezoning request to allow J.B. Brown & Sons to build a parking garage on the property.


The project is sited at the intersection of York and High streets, a high-traffic intersection that greets the majority of cars coming over the Casco Bay Bridge from South Portland.

El Rayo is planning a “Fiesta Farewell” on Sept. 26-27, its last weekend in the space.

The restaurant’s second location, which it opened on Route 1 in Scarborough in July 2014, will remain open and is unaffected by the Portland location’s closure.

El Rayo’s owners had previously closed an adjacent restaurant, which they called the El Rayo Cantina, in May 2014, citing the impending redevelopment of the property.

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