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Nacho Libre invests over $300K to open new location in Dominican Republic

A few years after opening the first Nacho Libre Cantina Mexicana restaurant in Hato Rey, its owners are expanding operations to the neighboring island of the Dominican Republic. 

In an interview with News is my Business, Emanuel Ocasio, one of the owners, said the new restaurant is slated to open on Dec. 2 in the Colonial City of Santo Domingo, which is known as the Zona Colonial.

“Nacho Libre has consolidated its presence in Puerto Rico with two successful restaurants strategically located in Hato Rey and Bayamón,” Ocasio said. “I am pleased to announce that we will soon open a new establishment in Caguas, strengthening our commitment to offer the authentic Nacho Libre experience in various parts of the island.”

The Hato Rey location spans some 3,000 to 4,000 square feet, Ocasio said, while the one in Bayamón features a 40-foot wagon with a terrace and seating for about 50 to 60 people.

“I would say we have about 2,000 square feet,” Ocasio said about the Bayamón restaurant. 

Regarding the new Dominican Republic location, Ocasio said that a soft launch occurred last week, but “the official inauguration will be on Dec. 2.”

“This is a two-level space, and each space is about 2,500 to 3,500 square feet,” he said.

“Since 2017, when the first Nacho Libre restaurant was launched, until today, the Hato Rey restaurant has had about 15 to 18 employees, and Bayamón has a rotation of eight to 10 workers, not including administrative staff,” Ocasio added.

Ocasio said that more than $300,000 has been invested in the Dominican Republic location. He joined the other two owners, Roberto Gerena-Pérez and Antonio Aguilar, about two years ago and didn’t have specific investment details for the Hato Rey and Bayamón locations.

“Where we are located in Santo Domingo is called the Zona Colonial, and it’s similar to Old San Juan, with a cathedral, historic [sites]. It’s a zone consisting of historic buildings, and when you build there you need a permit and you have to do specific things; you can’t change things much,” Ocasio said. “Working in a building like that to make a restaurant was a challenge, but we are achieving it.”

The Santo Domingo restaurant is expected to create about 20 jobs.

With this expansion, Nacho Libre not only aims to appeal to Dominicans, but also to contribute to the island’s tourism, given that visitors from all over the world frequent the area, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

“Since we founded Nacho Libre, we have always had the vision and goal to take it to other parts of the world, particularly to Latin America, like Colombia, Panama and the Dominican Republic. It means a lot that we’re taking this first step right now,” Gerena says in a media release about the expansion. “Our goal is to continue expanding [in Santo Domingo] to the Polígono Central, the center of Santo Domingo, where the most important urbanizations in the Dominican Republic are. Later on, we will reach Punta Cana and Santiago, among other areas.”

The “star of the menu” at the new location is Birria de Chivo, a reinterpretation of the traditional Mexican dish using Dominican meat. Nacho Libre seeks to blend the best of both culinary worlds to offer a unique experience.

The Santo Domingo restaurant will feature an “exclusive speakeasy,” called La Máscara, which is being built on the second floor, adding to the city’s vibrant nightlife. 

Back in Puerto Rico, the upcoming Caguas location, which is expected to open in January, will be a larger concept and include a drive-through to offer its patrons a self-pickup alternative.

Author Details
Author Details
Maria Miranda is an investigative reporter and editor with 20 years of experience in Puerto Rico’s English-language newspapers. In that capacity, she has worked on long-term projects and has covered breaking news under strict deadlines. She is proficient at mining data from public databases and interviewing people (both public figures and private sector individuals). She is also a translator, and has edited and translated an economy book on Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis. She worked as an interpreter for FEMA during the recent recovery efforts of Hurricane María and earned her FEMA badge.

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