Last call: Popular McAllen bar and grill shutting doors after 14 years

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Bartender Bo Smith serves patrons at London Grill & Tavern on Friday, July 5, 2024, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

McALLEN — After 14 years of serving up ice cold beer and hearty meals, London Grill & Tavern will be permanently closing its doors.

The decision came as a surprise to many local bar flies who have frequented the local watering hole since opening in 2010.

“It’s kind of hard. We’ve spent a lot of good times here,” David Gonzalez, a car salesman from Edinburg, said. “A lot of people have gone away too. I​​t’s just life. You’ve got to change. It’s been a good run though. It’s been a hell of a run.”

London Grill & Tavern sits on a busy strip of Nolana Avenue that’s peppered with other bars and restaurants. The location has proven beneficial for the establishment since it opened in the former location of a Bennigan’s.

The location certainly helped attract customers to London Grill & Tavern, but it was the hospitality and reasonable prices that made regulars.

“London was built on the foundation that it should be price conscious,” Navin Chatlani, who owns and manages the bar and grill, said. “We’re not going to rip you off. We’re not going to charge you extra. It’s just a mom and pop bar charging fair prices for the consumers.”

Chatlani, who prides himself in the role his establishment has played in the community, knows many of his customers on a first-name basis. It’s a small, but significant practice that has been inherited by his staff — and customers have noticed.

“It’s like losing a child,” Alex Hernandez, of San Juan said, comparing the bar and grill to The Bull and Finch Pub from the popular sitcom, “Cheers.”

Patrons spend their time at London Grill & Tavern on Friday, July 5, 2024, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

“We’re all family. We all get along. The owners are very family oriented. It became like a big family.”

He described London Grill & Tavern as a second home — recalling the times that he was allowed to put movies on the bar’s multiple televisions.

“I don’t even watch TV at my house. I watch TV here,” he added.

“We know there’s no other spot in the Valley that’s like this,” Hernandez said. “This is it. This is an icon dying.”

There’s been speculation about why London Grill & Tavern is permanently closing. Chatlani said that it was simply a decision to move on.

“It’s to go out with a bang or go out with your name still being recognized as a bar that still survived,” Chatlani said. “I can wait two, three, or four years down the road. I don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s more bars opening. Those bars come in and we can have more competition. Then we have to strive to compete with that. What I’m really saying is we’ve done our time.”

He added that running the bar and putting in over 60 hours a week since 2010 has taken its toll on him. He said that he is ready to move on and devote his time to his family and his four children.

“It takes a toll on your family, it takes a toll on your lifestyle, it takes a toll on your day-to-day operation,” he said. “It was time to find balance in my personal life. We’re here day in and day out. Customers know us. We know the customers, we know their kids, we know their families, we know their lives. We know everything about everybody. Now I want to carry that for my own family.”

The restaurant will continue to operate until Monday, serving food and drinks for customers who are seeking one last opportunity to sit in their favorite barstool. The looming closure is not lost on the employees who will soon have to seek employment elsewhere.

But for many, it is more than that. Like the customers who have called London Grill & Tavern home for over a decade, it is the feeling of parting ways with a family.

“We call it the London family. Everybody takes care of everybody,” Leo Guerrero, one of the managers, said. “We’re gonna miss everything.”

“It was a great ride.”