The community is losing two beloved restaurants in as many months so their owners can focus on family needs.
The first restaurant to close was The Shed, located at 333 E. Tehachapi Blvd., as of Dec. 24.
Then on Jan. 6, Juan and Yolanda Acevedo gathered their employees at Don Juan's and delivered the sad news that the iconic restaurant will also be closing its doors effective Jan. 31. It was one of the hardest things they ever had to do, the Acevedos said.
Don Juan's, located at 20700 South St., first opened its doors 10 years ago. The restaurant features Latin fusion cuisine and South American wines.
"I have been in mourning since we made this decision, and have cried and cried," said Yolanda. "We didn't have children when we first started the business, and now we have four. They are our priorities in life."
Pointing at their two youngest children sitting quietly nearby, Juan said, "They are the reason for this decision. Our family means everything to us."
In addition to Don Juan's, the Acevedos owned Veritas Tapas and Wine Bar, which they sold last year, and a third restaurant years ago in Inyokern.
"Owning your own restaurant isn't as easy as people think," said Yolanda. "You have to work 24-7, and you are married to your job."
The Acevedos both agree that this marriage of sorts can be hard on family life, but the couple have remained strong in their own marriage after 21 years.
Said Yolanda, "I found myself stretched in all different directions, and it just became too hard. I'm not a TV mom, and I take a hands-on approach to raising my children."
While reliving their favorite memories as owners of the popular restaurant, both Juan and Yolanda become tearful at times, but bravely pressed on.
Their favorite memories include the fundraisers they held for local schools and organizations, their loyal customers who visited regularly and folks who dropped in from all over the world, some who come every year just to eat at Don Juan's.
"The thing I will miss the most is fundraisers and big dinners we did for organizations like the Pregnancy Care Center," said Brandon Myrick, who has served as the manager of Don Juan's since 2009.
Said Juan, "It would get crazy sometimes, when we would have a big crowd here, but when people compliment your food, it makes what you do all worthwhile."
Although family was the driving force in closing their restaurant, the Acevedos also said new laws contributed to their decision.
"When the minimum wage increases in a few years to $15 an hour, we wouldn't be able to keep up with that," said Yolanda. "Workers Compensation goes up, and we now have to offer sick leave to our employees. People think that, just because we own a restaurant, we are walking around with a lot of money in our pockets, and it's just not true."
The Acevedos say they worry about their employees, whom they love dearly.
"Our servers are the best in the world," said Yolanda, her voice breaking. "We couldn't ask for better ones. When we broke the news to them this (Friday) morning, they all said they would stay with us until the end. One of our employees just closed escrow on his house. You don't know how hard it was for us to tell him that he would be out of work by the end of the month."
Although this was a tough decision, the Acevedos believe closing the restaurant is the right decision.
Said Juan, "It took a lot out of us, but we can't compete with these new laws. We know we are doing the right thing."
Don Juan's has been on the market for the past eight months, and the Acevedos are praying that a new owner buys the business so it can keep going. In the meantime, they said they have no plans for the near future, other than taking a breather to spend some quality time with the family.
"We're not leaving. We are still going to be in town and drinking wine at Veritas," laughed Yolanda.
Michelle Vance, economic development coordinator for the City of Tehachapi, said she was saddened to hear the news of the closure of both Don Juan's and The Shed.
"I talked to both owners, as I know them both very well, and they didn't shut their restaurants due to lack of business. It was because their family was a priority," said Vance. "They are established businesses and great restaurants and are staples in the community, and both will be deeply missed."
Although the closures of both restaurants were for personal reasons, Vance agreed that the proposed minimum wage increase would have a negative impact on business owners, especially in California.
"Being an entrepreneur isn't easy, and there are a lot of factors that are in play and a lot of responsibility that goes along with it," said Vance. "I don't think people realize just how hard it is to run a restaurant, and with all the increased legalities that the government puts on the owners, it becomes harder and harder."
On Dec. 21, 2016, Mano Lujan announced on Facebook the closure of the second iconic restaurant, The Shed, as of Christmas Eve. Lujan purchased the restaurant in February 2015 from George and Anne Marie Novinger. Formerly known as the Apple Shed, Lujan shortened the name to The Shed after taking over.
In his Facebook post, Lujan also stated he was closing the popular restaurant for family reasons.
Wrote Lujan, "This decision, although difficult, was not hard to make. My mother has Alzheimer's and dementia. I have decided to take care of my mom and move her into my home so that hopefully, I can get 1 or 2 years with her while she still knows who I am."
Lujan has also put the restaurant up for sale, and if need be, says he will liquidate his other restaurant, Red House BBQ, located across the street from The Shed, as well.
Wrote Lujan, "I feel for my staff at The Shed who has worked so hard to get this place back to life but, my mom comes first. I have to do what is right for her."
The Shed will remain available for rental for private parties and events until such time it is sold. In addition, all obligations previously booked will be honored, and gift cards can also be redeemed at Red House BBQ.
The site will remain open for the operation of the bakery and candy store.