Since 1994, Chichen Itza has occupied the corner of Richmond and Greenville avenues, slinging some of the best tacos and tortas Dallas has to offer.
But about five years ago, Jesse Fuentes, guitarist and vocalist for the band Releaser, decided to use the space to support local bands and whet the appetites of young music fans looking to catch free shows a few times a month.
“It was really fun,” Chichen Itza’s Sergio Sanchez says. “I wish it would have lasted longer, but the area started changing. ... You’ve got a lot more people here that just want to relax, and the music we played here was … kind of too loud for them.”
Chichen Itza also faced parking problems for the shows, which drew about 120 people, and the site is only permitted to be a grocery store. “We’re not even really supposed to have this many tables,” Sanchez says.
The taqueria became known in its short-lived history as a small music venue for giving a voice to punk, grindcore and straight-edge bands that had a hard time finding a venue to host their hardcore following.
“It started out as a place for our friends, really,” Sanchez says. “They told us how much it cost them to even put on a show anywhere else, and we were just like, ‘That’s too much.’”
Chichen Itza hosted local bands such as Releaser and Heretic, and groups came from Boston, California, Mexico and Canada.
"They created apostles out of us," Fuentes says of the cult following Chichen Itza provided. "Everyone that went and played there had that mutual feeling."
When Releaser performed there for its album release show, "the crowd was wild," Fuentes says. "We were a full band, it was a good turnout, the restaurant did well on sales. I'm pretty sure our vocalist found out he was having a kid that day. Everyone was happy."
And for the most part, the shows went smoothly.
“One time, this guy’s head went through the window. He was a good guy about it, though. He just walked to the ATM and paid for it,” Sanchez says.
“We only ever had one problem, and it was at the first show,” he says. “A skinhead tried to get in my dad’s face and just started throwing a fit, saying racist stuff, so my friends threw him out.”
Aside from the parking and the noise, Sanchez says it became more difficult for the shop to function as a venue after 2016's Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, California, in which 36 people died. After that, cities started cracking down on potential fire hazards in places without proper permits. The tragedy ended what had become a thriving taqueria music scene across DFW.
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“Honestly, the city wasn’t trying to attack us or anything,” Sanchez says. “They just wanted to give us a heads up before they slapped us with a big ol’ fine.” While some places can handle a $10,000 fine, Chichen Itza can't.
The folks at Chichen Itza have not given up hope on giving a stage to metal bands.
“We’re trying to work it out,” Sanchez says. “We want to do something in the back parking lot for at least 200 people if everything works out all right. The city actually stepped in to help us do it the right way. They wanted us to have a space, but just not the way we were doing it.”
Sanchez says he's hoping to have a show in June or July. "We are trying to get the In Fest here — it’s a pretty big show with a lot of bands from around the country,” he says.