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Columbia location of Sabor Latin Street Grill shutters due to COVID-19

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Sabor’s Quinoa Avocado Bowl

The Vista location of Sabor Latin Street Grill, a fast-casual restaurant chain out of Charlotte, closed late last month amid the coronavirus’ impact on area restaurants.

Mark Gardner, former general manager with the restaurant, confirmed to Free Times that the restaurant closed on March 21, and that the closure is now permanent. The restaurant had employed 22 workers.

“COVID-19 … just hurt sales too much,” Gardner explains.

Numerous restaurants throughout the area have grappled with takeout-only offerings since Gov. Henry McMaster closed South Carolina restaurant dining rooms on March 17 in an effort to enforce social distancing. Gardner says the Columbia Sabor gave takeout a shot, but it wasn’t successful enough to justify continuing.

“We tried that the first week, but the sales just weren’t there,” he says.

Columbia’s outpost of the Charlotte-based chain opened in June 2019. Per its website, it focused on food drawing from “countries such as El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico & Colombia.”

The chain has one other location in Greenville, which appears to still be open and actively promoting itself on social media channels. There are 15 other locations in North Carolina.

Per a Charlotte Business Journal report in 2019, Bold and Fresh Hospitality LLC opened the Columbia location and had hopes to open others in Spartanburg, Anderson and Clemson.

Other restaurants have had mixed results with takeout or eschewed it altogether, but Sabor marks one of the first fast-casual, seemingly more takeout friendly restaurants to face closure due to the virus.

Vista Mexican eatery COA Agaveria Y Cocina has stayed closed and not offered takeout, and West Columbia’s Black Rooster gave it a go for a while before stopping. Main Street wine bar Lula Drake followed suit and closed after about two weeks of offering to-go food and wine.

Beyond COVID-19, the Vista entertainment and business district has had a rocky time of late in terms of restaurant closures. Sabor joins the ranks of longtime event spot and bakery Nonnah’s, the Carolina Strip Club steakhouse, Mexican/Japanese chain TakoSushi, and craft beer havens Flying Saucer and The Casual Pint, all of which have closed their locations in the area since November.

Prominent players on the Vista business scene have downplayed the closures to Free Times in previous stories, saying that the neighborhood has a rosy future with hotels and other development on the way.

David Clarey joined Free Times in November 2019 as a food and news writer. He's constantly fighting competing desires to try cooking food at home and spending his entire paycheck on Columbia restaurants.

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