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ON THE MENU — Tequila’s on Gulfway undergoes renovations; eyes opening

The story of the original Tequila’s is shrouded in mystery.

Besides the opening date, 1992, and the location, 4231 Gulfway Drive, 90 percent of the story remains anonymous.

One of the owners, Leo Cisneros, only knows that it began with a long-gone sister-in-law in the early ’90s.

“My sister-in-law opened the restaurant in 1992,” he said. “All I know is that it’s always been a family-owned restaurant.”

Cisneros wife, who asked not to be named, inherited the store with her other sister. Along with her husband, the foursome took over the restaurant in 2002.

“(The sisters) worked here since the business opened,” Cisneros said. “At that point, me, and the other sister’s husband, were still working our own jobs. The original owner gave us the first shot to take over the business when she was ready to sell. We thought it would be a good idea.”

The original Tequila’s Mexican Restaurant is located at 4231 Gulfway Dr. (Cassandra Jenkins/The News)

Together they transformed Tequila’s into a local hotspot focusing on great food and family values.

“Our business is more of a family-friendly business,” Cisneros said. “We do sell hard liquor, but we don’t advertise it a lot. We want everyone to feel at home here and come as is. That’s what customers love about our business.”

The menu is a mixture of traditional Mexican delicacy and a blended Tex-Mex feel.

“We have a great menu,” Cisneros boasted. “There’s a lot on there and everything sells. When we first took over this place, we added a lot of plates. The vast majority of specialties we serve are our grilled meats like fajitas, tacos, etc. We also do seafood. We have everything from shrimp and chicken wings to fajitas and enchiladas.”

Tequila’s recently renovated the interior design of the restaurant including new tables, chairs, flooring, walls and décor. (Cassandra Jenkins/The News)

As the original Tequila’s, the owners instilled a love of customer service and making everyone who walks through the door feel like family.

“We try to better ourselves in customer service,” Cisneros said. “We’re there for the customers, talking to them more and making it a welcoming environment. It’s all about our service and our employees. We tell our employees we need to be more talkative. We want people to come try us out.

“Our food is great and a lot of people like to make their own menu and their own stuff. We are pretty lenient in that. We are at the point where when customers come in here they already have their seats. They walk and they go towards a certain table because that’s their place.”

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 no one has seen the inside of Tequila’s since March.

“It’s our health,” Cisneros said. “We manage and run the restaurant. We are here all the time and our employees are here all the time. So we decided not to open the restaurant until we were ready.”

The restaurant recently announced a grand reopening date of July 8.

A jukebox and TV inside Tequila’s. (Cassandra Jenkins/The News)

When customers return in the summer, they will be greeted with an entirely renovated venue.

Cisneros said the company took the current lockdown as an opportunity to upgrade the outdated space.

“When we started renovations it wasn’t supposed to be anything big,” he said. “Then we started gutting walls, redid the restrooms, put in new floors. It looks totally different from the new tables and chairs to a new hostess stand and new colors.”

Remaining unnamed, the four voices joined to share their excitement to see all of their customers return.

“We get a lot of calls, texts from our customers on when we are going to reopen,” Cisneros spoke for the group. “We’ve got a lot of really good feedback. We are excited to see everybody.

“We have people from Beaumont, the lake, Houston and Louisiana who drive down to eat with us. We will be happy to see all of our customers come back. We appreciate all of our customers and everything they’ve done for us in the past. Without them we wouldn’t be anybody.”

Upon reopening safety standards will be set for customers and employees, including hand-sanitizing stations, extra disinfecting and requiring employees to wear masks and gloves.

Current hours are subject to change.

Tequila’s Mexican Restaurant in Mid-County, 8550 Memorial Blvd., is currently open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. That location is operated by different owners.

For more information, visit https://www.restaurantji.com/tx/port-arthur/tequilas-mexican-bar-and-grill-/