Tequila bar set for Carmon's old space
CHAMPAIGN — Victor and Ezequiel "Sammy" Fuentes plan to open a tequila bar and grill in the former Carmon's building in downtown Champaign.
"If everything goes well, it will open in about six weeks," Victor Fuentes said, adding he hopes to close on the purchase of the building at 415 N. Neil St., C, this week.
Fuentes said The Wedge Tequila Bar and Grill will be open for lunch and dinner, as well as late into the night on certain days.
The food will have some "Mexican influence, but we'll have other dishes as well," he said.
The Fuentes family is probably best known for its popular El Toro restaurants, but Victor Fuentes said The Wedge will be different from those.
"The menu will not be as big as the menu at El Toro, and it will change every four to five weeks," he said.
The Wedge refers to the lime wedge often served with tequila, margaritas and other drinks, Fuentes said. The image will be used in the bar's logo.
Fuentes said he was looking for something to complement the nightlife in downtown Champaign and thought a tequila bar might be the answer.
"I wanted to try some new things," Fuentes said, noting that a previous experiment — the V. Picasso tapas restaurant and lounge in downtown Urbana — didn't work out for him.
"I was waiting for the right opportunity," he said.
With the new Hyatt Place hotel scheduled to be built at the southwest corner of Church and Neil streets in downtown Champaign, he decided the opportunity had arrived.
The building at 415 N. Neil St. is a block-and-a-half to the north of the hotel site, and building owner Jeff Mellander was willing to sell.
"I figured I might as well jump the gun and do it myself," Fuentes said, noting he wanted to buy because he plans to be downtown for a long time.
Mellander said one condition of the sale was that he be allowed to remove the neon Carmon's letters from the building and store them.
From 1947 to 2007, the building was home to Carmon's restaurant, which was operated first by Carl Monen and in later years by Paul Damski, who served breakfast and lunch.
That was succeeded in 2007 by Carmon's Creperie, which operated for four years. After a brief closure, it reopened as Carmon's Bistro, but that closed in late August.
Fuentes said he hopes to make the building look "more modern" and "look alive." Besides making cosmetic upgrades to the exterior, he hopes to upgrade and extend the patio area.
The Wedge is expected to have about 12 employees, he added.
The Fuentes family operates El Toro Bravo and El Toro 2 in Champaign, as well as El Toro restaurants in Urbana, St. Joseph, Danville, Rantoul, Monticello, Bloomington, Cincinnati and Walton, Ky. It also operates La Fiesta in Springfield.