Popular Oakland taqueria temporarily closes over construction and crime

A popular taqueria in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood has temporarily closed over a dispute with the landlord, ongoing construction, and violent crime.

Taco El Ultimo Baile at the Fruitvale Public Market announced it will remain closed until next year and focus on catering, pop-ups and events because of construction outside its doors.

Owner Dominic Prado rents space from The Unity Council, a nonprofit development corporation that is working to transform the Fruitvale Village, creating market-rate offices, housing and merchant space.

Prado took to social media complaining about the ongoing construction and said, "I would never have invested in the restaurant having known this."

The taqueria, which opened in October 2022 to serve up it’s hot, meat-filled tacos had its patio fenced off and closed down amid the ongoing construction.

"It’s causing some disruption, we understand that," The Unity Council CEO Chris Iglesias said. "There’s a real need for public space and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish right now."

The project that's focused on the former Masonic temple along International Boulevard is expected to be completed by March 2024, with a new community event area, affordable office space, and a jobs center.

Until then, Prado took it upon himself to put in picnic benches and tables in another section of the patio area, sparking a dispute with the landlord.

In a letter to Taco El Ultimo Baile and posted on the restaurant's Instagram, The Unity Council said the benches were unapproved and violated the lease agreement. Additionally, an elderly man fell and hurt himself while attempting to sit on one of the benches, the letter said. Prado was ordered to remove them or face legal action.

"Why wait till after construction to make any changes," he said in a post. "We need the help now to offset revenue loss because of the violence and construction."

Prado has been outspoken and blasted the city over increasing crime in the Fruitvale neighborhood.

At least five separate shootings have happened near the Fruitvale Public Market so far this year.

Other businessowners tell KTVU it is costing them customers and they also a fear for themselves and their employees’ safety.

"I don’t feel too safe," said bakery owner Jose Flores. "I worry about my customers because when people hear something happens here, they don’t come here like before."

Iglesias said The Unity Council has ramped up armed guards and is adding more cameras around the public market.

But even he expressed frustration over the ongoing violence and said safety is the number one challenge in East Oakland.

"It’s just been these ongoing issues around public safety that hasn’t really died down much," Iglesias said. "It’s time to really think big and bold about how we address it."

For now, it’s another reason Prado said he’s shutting down until at least next March, when the construction ends and community conditions improve.

"We’ll work with him and we’ll work with other merchants as well," Iglesias said. "We want nothing more than for them to be successful."

Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at  brooks.jarosz@fox.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BrooksKTVU