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story.lead_photo.caption The former Taco Bell Cantina, 412 W. Dickson St., in Fayetteville has closed. The cantina, described by the restaurant chain as a concept featuring an upscale menu and alcoholic beverages, opened in March 2017 as one of four others in the country. - Photo by Andy Shupe

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Taco Bell Cantina on Dickson Street closed this week just shy of two years in operation.

A note on the door says the restaurant has closed and directs customers to other Taco Bell restaurants in the city. The sign with the logo above the door was removed Wednesday morning.

Owners inside the building Wednesday afternoon declined comment.

The concept eatery opened in March 2017 as one of four in the country. A news release at the time described the cantina as having an upscale menu compared to a traditional Taco Bell, as well as alcoholic beverages.

K-Mac Enterprises in Fort Smith runs more than 270 Taco Bell franchises in nine states. K-Mac CEO Sam Fiori said in February the anticipated cost of renovation at the Dickson Street location was about $500,000.

The spot at 412 W. Dickson St. served as home to coffee shop and restaurant Common Grounds for about two decades before the cantina moved in. The space was split with another restaurant, Pickleman's Gourmet Cafe, which is still in operation.

Allen Willis, franchise owner of Pickleman's, said the sandwich spot has had a good year and is thankful for the support it has garnered since opening.

The cantina's shuttering comes amid a string of business closings within the past three months. Hog Haus, Waffle House and Blackboard Grocery all closed their doors. Retail shop Something Urban announced on social media this month it will close in January after 20 years on Dickson Street.

Steve Clark, Chamber of Commerce president, said he viewed the changeovers as part of the natural evolution of downtown.

It's easy to focus on a few businesses closing without looking at an overall picture, Clark said. There are more than 200 businesses within the Dickson Street and entertainment district areas, he said, and a handful of them closing equates to a very small percentage of the total.

"As long as it stays under 10 percent of the businesses on the street, that's probably just the business cycle," Clark said. "If it's bigger than that, then you start paying attention."

The cantina was part of a concept Taco Bell was trying out, Clark said. Other spots have new occupants lined up, he said.

New York-based Insomnia Cookies is set to move into the former Waffle House. Three House Ventures LLC bought the old Hog Haus building at Dickson Street and West Avenue for nearly $3.2 million in late October.

The food and beverage business can be tough, and businesses in the field often have a high turnover, Clark said. Plus, sometimes business owners decide to close for reasons other than a lack of sales, he said.

Clark said he doesn't see Dickson Street reverting to the bad old days of decades ago when crime and blight kept visitors away. Investments in a remodeled Walton Arts Center, a new TheatreSquared building and the planned cultural arts corridor are all indicators of good things to come, he said.

"It is a situation where we're not anything close to where we were 25 years ago, when Dickson Street was not a very good place to go," Clark said.

Monroe Dickson LLC purchased 412 and 410 Dickson Street in 2016 for $1.3 million, according to Washington County property records.


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    December 27, 2018 at 10:13 a.m.


  • MaxCady
    December 27, 2018 at 12:28 p.m.

    A Taco Bell isn't anybody's idea of a Mexican restaurant.

  • TheBatt
    December 27, 2018 at 4:29 p.m.

    Taco Bell... barf. BUT... it' isn't just that it was a Taco Bell (there has been and apparently will continue to be, people who seem to -mistakenly- think that this establishment actually serves an edible product) - but the location. Fayetteville has truly made it extremely difficult for any business to thrive on Dickson St. From parking issues to several other heavy-handed actions.