The Local Oak ‘in it for the long haul’

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When Alycen Cuellar decided to open her own restaurant, she went all in with the Local Oak, and she cut no corners in renovating an old building on Zang at Seventh.

Cuellar is part of an Oak Cliff restaurant legacy. Her grandfather opened the first El Chico in Dallas in 1947. Her father, Frank X. Cuellar Jr., started La Calle Doce and El Ranchito. She is a majority partner in Corazon de Tejas.

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She found out last summer that the Local Oak’s building owners were selling to a developer. Now that developer, Alamo Manhattan, has released a plan to demolish her building, along with many others surrounding it, to put up five-story apartment/retail buildings.

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Cuellar has a lease on the Local Oak building and the adjacent parking lot until 2028, she says.

“When I took this, I took it for the long haul. I took it because I believed in Oak Cliff,” Cuellar says. “I wanted to be here, and I wanted to work hard to be here.”

Cuellar and her partners took 13 months to open after first leasing the space. From our 2013 story about their opening:

Owners Alycen Cuellar, Felix Garcia and Paul Delgado renovated the 1920s building, which has a mid-century modern facade.

“You couldn’t even walk in here when we first got it,” Garcia says.

The building owners had been using it for storage, and it was full of office furniture. The floor was covered in ugly old carpet, and the building was segmented into offices. It has never been used as a restaurant before, so there was no kitchen, no vent-a-hood, no grease trap. Plus, there was no electricity and no running water. But somehow, Cuellar saw something there.

“We made a little something out of nothing,” she says.

They hired design firm 44 Build, which repurposed wood and everything else they could in the renovation. Cuellar even hired a metalsmith to create new wrought-iron details to match existing ones on the facade. Her husband does much of the landscaping, mostly crushed granite and succulents, himself.

Cuellar says Alamo Manhattan offered to buy out her lease for a price she calls “insulting.” She says the figure was less than a quarter of what she invested in the renovations.

Several regular customers have been under the impression that the restaurant is closing, and Cuellar wants the world to know: The Local Oak is not going anywhere.

The owners of Ten Bells Tavern, who have seven years left on their lease and also are in the proposed path of future development, have said they have no plans to close. The tavern’s owners released a statement on Facebook earlier this week:

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Alamo Manhattan has tried to come in and convince us that money is worth more than keeping Bishop Arts local, independent and eclectic…all the traits that made it as popular as it is now. We want to assure you that we are not selling out for a quick buck and we will remain the same shiny, hand-built with love little building we have always been. People have asked what they can do to help. The best thing you can do is frequent and spend your hard earned money at the places you love…Ten Bells Tavern, Local Oak, Red Pegasus Games and Comics or the other places that will also feel the impact of this.

The best thing supporters can do, the restaurant owners say, is come in for dinner and a drink. So let’s go, Oak Cliff. If you appreciate these businesses, they should have lines out the door every night.

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  • FreeThinkerTX

    I love the Local Oak! My commute will be changing starting in August, which means I’ll get to go there at least once a week. Woo-hoo!!

  • lakewoodhobo

    They are wonderful businesses, no doubt. But I bet that half of the 2,000 people with pitchforks over Alamo Manhattan havent spent a dime at Ten Bells or Local Oak or could find them on a map.