Today we’d like to introduce you to Maria Lopez.
Forty years ago, Armando Lopez began the 1st Regional Mexican Night Club in L.A. “Leonardo’s” was the city’s “spot” to enjoy live entertainment of this kind. Sure, this was a unique business concept through the 80’s but the truth was the area and the neighbors of Miracle Mile have all changed and gentrification made keeping the concept up very difficult. To meet new local demands Maria Lopez, Armando’s eldest daughter had plans to update the look and build a place that spoke to its time. In 2009, Candela Taco Bar, a local, restaurant bar that serves savory Mexican dishes (many of them mom’s recipes) and distinctive margaritas was opened. This was the beginning of a new era for the family business, now being ran by Maria and Omar (brother), Candela La Brea has managed to become a chic event space that offers you a one of kind experience. You will be pleasantly surprised to see the high, vaulted original 1920’s ceiling with a hanger type feel. Maria and Omar have joined their love of business and aesthetics to grow the restaurant brand into an L.A. lifestyle brand. They now host in house events such as Tango Tuesday and Taco Wednesdays but are also the home to a long list of corporate clients. From weddings to live music events, Candela La Brea (the new umbrella for Candela Taco Bar and Lounge and the event space) has now partnered with Bose to bring the highest quality sound and live entertainment in the U.S. Pairing great service with a unique dining/entertainment experience will keep this brother sister duo strong players in the scene for years to come.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Right around the time I came to work for my dad, our neighborhood locals were no longer my dad’s clientele, which posed a huge challenge but also the main reason for us to change. Building a new brand (Candela Taco Bar) while re-branding (Leonardo’s to Candela La Brea) another wasn’t going to easy. I needed to make sure that Candela Taco Bar served as a bridge between a gentrified Mid-Wilshire area to our very traditional “Mexican Nightclub” business model. This later led to transitioning the club to be a full-service venue, a mini- House of Blues per say.
Having no restaurant experience was also a huge challenge for me… However, somehow not knowing served as a competitive advantage. My dad had always thought us, “to be a leader, you have to know how to do it all”. Which meant I was set out to learn the business from the kitchen, bar, customer service to the back of the house. I was running the front and back of the house, developing a marketing strategy and all sales for our events and catering side. It was as difficult for my dad to adapt to his 23-yr. old daughter coming in with new ideas as it was for me to trust that the old-school way is sometimes the best way. Until Omar joined the company, bringing his branding and sales experience, I was able to spend make more time developing relationships with corporate clients and partnerships. We’ve had to develop our company culture with new systems to make it more relatable to younger generations.
Candela La Brea/ Candela Taco Bar – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We provide a genuine Mexican experience in a sexy, chic yet cozy space. We offer an experience that in unlike any in Los Angeles from the moment you walk in we want to offer quality food, service and entertainment. Our food will create nostalgia and our atmosphere will make you feel far from the rumble of the busy LA streets. We are excited that we are able to be the host to fundraisers that help local non-profits, community events that bring neighbors together or live music events that allow L.A.’s diversity to shine.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I am most proud that we’ve been able to take my dad’s hard work and make something for future generations. As a family, we are able to say that we have been able to re-brand an LA staple to become fresh and hub for so many big brands and events. As an entrepreneur being able to partner with Bose which is a company known for its quality and standards, it is meaningful that we were chosen to showcase and launch their latest sound system on the West Coast. Really just solidifying our business to become a next level experience.
- $1 Taco Wednesday 11:30am-11:30pm
- Address: 831 S La Brea Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90036
- Website: www.candelatacobar.com
- Phone: 323-936-0533
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @candelaonlabrea
- Facebook: @candelaonlabrea
- Twitter: @candelaonlabrea
- Yelp: Candela Taco Bar