Taco Trio in South Portland is moving into Big Babe’s Tavern. Kate Irish Collins/The Forecaster

Taco Trio in South Portland is moving just down the street into the building that now houses Big Babe’s Tavern, a music venue, bar and restaurant that is looking for a new location in South Portland.

Karen Rasmussen, who owns Taco Trio with Manny Pena, said they had “grand plans” to renovate their 24-seat restaurant at 119 Ocean St., but “it just became a nightmare of costs and issues.”

“When we got the estimates for totally renovating that building, it was just so astronomically high,” she said, “and we would also have to be closed, probably for a year. We said, ‘There’s a perfectly good space right down the street. Why don’t we go there?’ ”

Rasmussen said that buying the building at Ocean and C streets allows the restaurant to expand – Big Babe’s has indoor seating for 64 and outdoor seating for an additional 20 – and add a bar. “We can finally make some nice cocktails and have interesting Mexican spirits, which we’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” she said.

Taco Trio is also working on opening a new location at 27 Elm St. in Saco.

The new South Portland location, which she does not expect to open for at least another four weeks, will eventually serve breakfast, Rasmussen said. The old Taco Trio space will be used as a prep kitchen.

Ginger Cote, the owner of Big Babe’s Tavern, put the building on the market last summer for $3.1 million about six months after it opened. The business opened in January 2020, but had to shut down less than two months later because of the pandemic. It reopened briefly in the fall for takeout.

Big Babe’s took Cote four years to build. She said because the tavern was open such a short period of time, “I slipped through the cracks with funding and help. I just got into a hole that no honest woman could dig out of. So I made the decision to sell, and it was a hard decision.”

But she is happy with how things have turned out.

“This is a happy transition,” she said. “There’s no ill feelings. I chose them. I had several other buyers, and I chose them. I love them. I love what they do, and I think that they deserve a nice big space. It just felt like the right thing to do.”

Cote said she is still looking for a new location for Big Babe’s, which she’d like to keep in South Portland. The new iteration of the business will have a small menu, but it will be primarily a bar and music venue, she said, not a restaurant. She plans to keep the name.

Cote said she will return to Ocean and C streets when the sign outside says Taco Trio.

“I’m going to go there to eat tacos and drink tequila,” she said.


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