TAMPA, Fla. — It's the end of an era in West Tampa — the iconic Cuban restaurant Arco Iris is shutting down for good on New Year's Eve.

  • Iconic Cuban restaurant in Tampa closing Columbus Drive location
  • Second location on Habana Street to remain open
  • Acro Iris has been a staple in Tampa for over 30 years

The property owner has chosen not to renew the restaurant’s lease.

Arco Iris has been a staple in the Tampa community for more than 30 years.

Jorge and Madelin Gonzalez emigrated from Cuba via the Mariel boatlift and quickly found success with Arco-Iris in the 1980s.

Their daughter, Jeanette Llauger, calls the restaurant her second home.

"My youngest memory is sleeping on that booth, coming home from school and doing homework on that booth,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes. “All our customers grew up in this location.”

Llauger said the property owner almost didn’t renew their lease a decade ago, but ultimately extended it another 10 years.

So, as a precaution, they bought another location a few blocks away on Habana Street.

The good news? That location will remain open.

Many patrons have become regulars at Arco-Iris on Columbus Drive, gathering for lunch with friends there on the daily.

“Since 1987, almost every day for lunch and sometimes for dinner,” said longtime customer Elio Muller.

“This is a sad day for West Tampa for sure,” said Dale Sena, another longtime customer.

Many of these loyal patrons said the good food and tight-knit community kept drawing them back over the years.

“Everybody knows your name,” Muller said. “I walked in here right now and I know 10 of the patrons that are just sitting around on these tables and it’s like that every day.”

That closeness is what will keep the spirit of Arco-Iris alive, even if it no longer exists in the original location.

“We’re keeping it going! Next week, I’ll be at the other location, there won’t be a lapse,” Muller laughed.

“There’s a lot of plans, a lot of ideas we’re throwing around. But it’s definitely not the end of Arco-Iris. It’s just the end of this location,” Llauger said. “This isn’t the end for us. But it’s just closing a chapter and that’s always hard, always hard.”