El Cacerón has been one of the city’s crown jewels, home to a thriving Little Village community since 2009. But the past few years have been rocky. Lawsuits, decreased sales and oversaturation are part of the reason the taco shop is in a precarious spot.
The store has moved locations seven times since 2014, when it moved from an old dentist’s office at 28th and Del Mar to its current location at 1048 W. 19th St. The next door neighbor, The Willows, is up for sale for $5.2 million — less than El Cacerón and a tip-top half-hour walk away.
It was El Cacerón’s first time moving out of its original location. But when the owner failed to sell the restaurant, he quit and handed the lease over to his landlord, who then jumped the gun on converting the building to a marijuana shop, according to El Cacerón’s attorney, Jonathan Franco.
The El Cacerón original was just too much for a brick-and-mortar business trying to recover from difficult times. “It was too big and too much visibility. It’s just the wrong location,” Franco said.
The law may play a role. An Illinois state appeals court will hear arguments Friday over whether Chicago’s new ordinance for permitted marijuana shops is legal. That ruling may preclude El Cacerón’s owner from facing criminal prosecution. The appeals court may hand down a ruling by early next week.
“The way that the law is written, he can’t be prosecuted, but it’s possible that in fact he is wrongfully disobeying a city ordinance,” Franco said.
While marijuana businesses find themselves caught between local and state laws, there has been no major retail marijuana openings on the Central Market strip.
And if the El Cacerón dispute plays out, it may prompt other restaurant owners to switch to liquor. In neighboring Naperville, Illinois, outlets to sell alcoholic beverages on the same street where a marijuana retail shop is located could challenge the city’s liquor laws and law.