July 10, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
A Mexican bar/restaurant in Sunnyside is set to close, having never recovered from the pandemic-era lockdowns.
Arriba Arriba, known for its margaritas and Mexican flare, will close next month at 40-15 Queens Blvd. after a 15-year run. The establishment has a reputation for its sprightly atmosphere, live sports screenings and live music including karaoke.
Owner Gerardo Sarmiento, 60, said he is crestfallen to be closing, but the soaring costs of doing business — including rent hikes and the cost of food and drinks — have left him with no choice but to shutter.
“Sometimes it’s not easy to say you have to go,” Sarmiento told the Sunnyside/Queens Post. “I have tried to do the best I can, but the situation is not easy.”
Sarmiento said that his business took a major hit during the pandemic, during which establishments across the city and state were mandated to shutter for indoor dining in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19. He said the lockdowns had a serious impact on his bottom line and he has struggled to stay out of the red since then.
“The pandemic changed everything,” said Sarmiento, who is originally from Peru.
Owner Gerardo Sarmiento said he is crestfallen to be closing but the soaring costs of doing business (Photo provided)
Unlike many other bars/restaurants, Sarmiento said he was unable to construct an outdoor dining area since there is a bus stop directly outside Arriba Arriba.
He said the restrictions put the business under a massive financial strain, given the inside typically holds about 70 people. Sarmiento said he was only able to put two small tables outside the front door given the lack of space. Arriba Arriba is adjacent to the Irish grocery store Butcher Block and a Burger King.
“Everybody did a café outside or had an open street,” Sarmiento said. “I applied many times but [the city] refused me. It was not easy. I worked really hard.”
The impending closure of Arriba Arriba follows the shuttering of Alpha Donuts, a local staple that closed last month after a nearly 50-year-run. Patty Zorbas, the owner of Alpha Donuts, told the Sunnyside/Queens Post that her business never bounced back from the pandemic-era lockdowns.
Sarmiento notified his customers of Arriba Arriba’s impending closure last week via a post to the company’s Instagram page.
“We want to thank each one of our customers for the trust they have placed in Arriba Arriba during these 15 years,” the post reads. “At the end of August we will be closing our doors, we invite you to join us and enjoy our delicious Mexican food during these two months.”
View this post on Instagram
Some of Arriba Arriba’s most popular items included its tacos, burritos, enchiladas, elotes and chicken wings, Sarmiento said.
The establishment also offers a variety of beers and cocktails such as mojitos, tequila cocktails and margaritas. It regularly offers happy hour specials.
“We have great margaritas,” Sarmiento said.
Although he is from Peru, Sarmiento said he opened the Mexican-themed bar/restaurant because he had previously worked as a cook in similar-styled establishments after he moved to the United States in the mid-1980s. His sister owns a bar/restaurant called Arriba Arriba in midtown Manhattan, he said.
Arriba Arriba is Sarmiento’s only business venture and he said he is unsure as to what he will do when it closes, as he feels it is becoming harder and harder to operate a small business in the city.