El Taco Rey, a Mexican restaurant whose rice and beans, tortillas, green chile and other family recipes made it a Colorado Springs institution for more than four decades, has closed its doors for good.

"To all our loyal customers, it's with a heavy heart that we announce that we will not be reopening our doors," a Facebook post Thursday night read. "Thank you so much for 45 awesome years. Great food, wonderful friends and many memories! Thank you for all of your support! We love and appreciate you!"

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Customers had been eagerly awaiting the reopening of El Taco Rey since the death of Rosemary Aguilar, the matriarch of the family-owned restaurant. She died Sept. 20 at the age of 80.

After her death, a Facebook post said the restaurant wasn't closing permanently, but that family members needed time to grieve and take care of personal matters.

An Oct. 10 Facebook post then advised customers the restaurant would remain closed until further notice. A month later, another post said legal matters were taking longer than expected to sort through, asked customers to be patient and that the family was looking forward to reopening.  

But Jana Aguilar Mitchell, Rosemary's daughter and one of the restaurant's owners, told The Gazette on Friday that she and her siblings now have decided it is time to close the business permanently.

"It’s a decision we made as a family after sleepless nights," Mitchell said. "It was not an easy decision at all."

In addition to their mother's death, she said a sister has a terminal illness. The family's desire to provide support for her also factored into the decision to close the restaurant.

"Our family is just going through a lot right now," Mitchell said. 

Rosemary and her husband, Edumenio “Eddie” Aguilar, opened El Taco Rey in 1976. They brought made-from-scratch recipes to a community that quickly came to feel like the restaurant's extended family. Eddie Aguilar died in 2018.

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El Taco Rey operated in a tiny, single-story building at 330 E. Colorado Ave. on downtown's east edge.

Tacos, enchiladas, tamales, smothered burritos in pork green chile and many other dishes drew legions of office workers, residents from nearby neighborhoods and tourists, many of whom ate in a cozy dining room or on an inviting sidewalk patio.

Money was not a factor in the decision to close permanently, Mitchell said, adding that the restaurant was a "goldmine" and was always busy.

"I think our parents would want us to do what would be best for us," Mitchell said through teary eyes. "We are sad and our hearts are broken. It was our legacy." 

Mitchell said family members feel like they're letting down their customers.

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"We just appreciated our customers and we’re so thankful for all of them, every last one of them," Mitchell said. "We could not have done it without them. They are our family and our friends."

Reactions on Facebook indicated the loss of El Taco Rey would leave a void in the community.

"My family has a multi generational relationship with El Taco Rey," one fan posted. "Memories of my Grandma bringing me there when I was little. Then my grandchildren fell in love with food as well. It was not only the food, it was the family, the community, the ambiance, the culture. We will cherish the memories. Thank you for the love you all shared with every meal served."

The property, including the building and a parking lot, is expected to be appraised by month's end before it's put on the market, Mitchell said.

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