In a cracked parking lot, sharing a mercantile space with Sprockets Bicycle Shop, sits Taqueria el Picante, home to one hell of a barbacoa taco and formerly the best DIY performance space in North Dallas. The Lego-yellow colored business' owner and operator helped give local bands and their fans a venue to call home. But after property owners Uptown Knight LLC issued a cease and desist order to taquería owner Sven Wilde, those days appear to be over.[jump]
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"The idea was a safe place for queer bands and/or bands with people of color in them to play, something we thought Denton was lacking," Wilde says.
The idea first came about when Wilde met Allie Lowe of The Atomic Tanlines, who needed a consistent place for her and other bands she knew to play.
"I never saw many queers at the venues I'd been too," Wilde says. "I know there are queer people in Denton and if they're not at these other venues maybe they don't like the music. Or maybe they're just not comfortable at these places. It's not necessarily the venue's fault. It could be the people going to the shows."
Wilde wanted to create a place where minorities and gays could feel comfortable in the venue's environment. He also wanted everyone to have a place to go fucking nuts when moshing.
"The taquería has a zero tolerance on racism, sexism, homophobia and anything else that might promote ideas that we as people are not all equal," he says.
The shows grew in popularity, and while police and the property owners were initially supportive, Wilde recently got a cease and desist letter from Monica Moody, Office Manager of Uptown Knight LLC, which owns the building:
Holding events, shows or parties without the Landlord's approval is a violation of property rules. Due to the noise, trash, the number of people loitering as well as the parking issue; the landlord has requested that you stop these events, shows, or parties immediately. Please do not ignore this request as doing so will result in eviction.
Before the taco punk shows, there were just tacos. And now, for the immediate future, it will be just tacos again.
It began in 2005, when Wilde and his mother were selling tacos and menudo out of the trunk of their car. When his parents found the location where they are now, they were told by the building's owner that the space was ready to set up. However, two months into the business the city came and put a notice on their door, barring entry until they had building permits.
"My parents had no idea they needed anything but a dream. Reality hit hard then, and the opening was postponed over six months later. For over half a year they were paying rent on a business that wasn't open, while making house payments, and did their best to make sure things were still comfortable at home for my two sisters and I. I don't know how we did it. It was most definitely a family effort."
When the restaurant first opened, it was only during the morning, with Wilde's parents and one other assistant cook. Wilde and his younger sister would help out after school and on weekends. The tacos, despite the rough start, were a hit.
"Sometimes my mom would take naps in the storage closet. We couldn't leave the restaurant -- it was incredibly busy."
In the beginning, Wilde worked at the restaurant for tips, while working other jobs and attending school. But last September, Wilde's father went to Mexico and found that his current Green Card status won't allow him back in the country.
Wilde's father is stuck in Valle Hermoso in Tamaulipas, Mexico, making metal planters and selling them at markets to raise money for an appeal. Wilde became his mother's partner in the restaurant. They've agreed that he would take over full responsibilities this summer.
"I dealt with the landlords because I spoke English, but for the most part I was trying to market the business and promote it," he says. "I was working hard to garner buzz."