Downtown Schenectady’s Mexican Radio permanently closes, restaurant announces

Two photos: Building exterior and interior

FILE - Mexican Radio

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SCHENECTADY — Mexican Radio, the colorful, hulking restaurant at the corner of State Street and Broadway, has permanently shut its doors after nine years, the restaurant announced. 

The closure was announced on the restaurant’s Facebook page on Saturday, and has since gained dozens of heartfelt comments from those who frequented the establishment over the years, with many lamenting the loss of the restaurant’s popular vegan fare.

“To our mucho appreciated fans we are sorry to announce that Mexican Radio Schenectady is permanently closed,” the post reads. “Muchissimas Gracias for the [love] and support these past 9 years. It meant and will always mean the world to us!”

The restaurant — which took its name from the popular 1982 Wall of Voodoo song of the same title — began in Manhattan in 1996 before expanding to Hudson in 2003 and then Schenectady.

Mexican Radio began serving dishes in the Electric City in 2014, after owners Lori Selen and Mark Young purchased and restored the three-story, nearly 28,000-square-foot building that housed the restaurant. The building at 325 State St. also featured a spacious patio area. The building sits adjacent to the rail bridge that passes over State Street and is a short walk from the Jay Street pedestrian corridor and Proctors Theatre.

The Schenectady location opened after a lengthy overhaul of the circa-1865 building that was once home to Imperial Cloak Co., an upscale department store. The building later became the OTB Imperial Racing Center before closing down in 2004.

Selden and Young — who did not return a request seeking comment — purchased the building in 2012 from OTB for $475,000 and spent over $3 million renovating the space.

The massive undertaking garnered the support of the Schenectady Country Metroplex Development Authority, which provided $175,000 for asbestos abatement, stabilization efforts and façade improvements. The development authority also provided a partial tax exemption for the property that is set to expire in 2026. The property was tax-exempt when it was owned by OTB.

The payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement values the property at $1 million — around half of the property’s $2 million assessed value. The building’s owners pay $40,000 a year in taxes under the agreement, according to Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen, who said the agreement expires if the building is sold.

The restaurant’s Manhattan location closed its doors in 2017 due to rising costs, and the Hudson location followed suit two years later, after several members of its kitchen staff were deported, the owners said at the time.

In 2020, the Schenectady location began showing signs of trouble due to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced restaurants to shift to carry-out only as a way to mitigate the spread of the virus. The property was listed for sale that same year for $2.9 million.

On May 7, the restaurant announced it would be closing for a week “to do a bit of clearing and get some much needed RnR,” but a review of the comments indicates the establishment never reopened.

“So sorry to hear the news. We loved your restaurant — especially the vegan options!” one person commented.

“We love you guys so much. I’m so sorry,” wrote another.

Gillen said Monday that it’s unclear what the future for the building holds, but noted that several developers have toured the property in recent months, and that Metroplex is committed to finding a use for the space moving forward.

He also defended the development authority’s past investments in the property, noting that Metroplex took action to ensure the property was ready for future development.

“People think we give money to companies. We don’t don’t give money to companies, we put money into capital projects,” he said. “We invested in this building so it could be sold and redeveloped.”

The building is currently listed for sale at $1.75 million on LoopNet, a commercial real estate website.

“The building has 3 large floors, an elevator and an expansive outdoor patio, all of which allow for a wide variety of businesses and uses; retail, office, residential. Just add imagination,” the listing reads.

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] or by calling 518-395-3120.

Categories: Business, News, Schenectady, Schenectady County

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