Mojo Burrito to close in St. Elmo; some Red Bank employees quit

Red Bank location will remain open

Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Customers place an order under a tent at the entrance at Mojo Burrito on Monday, Jan. 25, 2021.

After 19 years of rolling burritos and dishing up nachos, the Mojo Burrito in St. Elmo will soon close its doors.

"I know we're not alone in this, it's not just us," said owner Eve Williams, who said she struggled with the decision, and had fought to keep the restaurant open with carryout ordering and outdoor dining.

The Red Bank location of Mojo Burrito will remain open, making it the last remaining outpost of the local business that once had four. She still plans to move Mojo to a new location in Red Bank at 3512 Dayton Blvd., in the spot where a Shoney's once stood, Williams said.

"I'm definitely going to throw a hail Mary at that and try to get the new store completed and move down the road," she said. "It will be full service and quick service - the best of both worlds."

(Read more: Blue Plate, ROBAR closing on downtown Chattanooga's riverfront)

The pandemic had strained her restaurants on multiple fronts, Williams said. She had to shift from a social, informal environment where customers stood shoulder-to-shoulder and watched employees prepare their meals assembly-line style to one that kept customers outside and made it tough to find and keep staff.

Several employees at the Red Bank location of Mojo Burrito quit Thursday when they learned the restaurant will reopen its dining room on a limited basis, said Missouri McClanahan, who works at the restaurant. Customers will still need to order their food online, but they'll have the option to take their carryout meals around to the dining room to eat, she said.

(Read more: Staff shortages make a bad situation worse for Mojo Burrito.)

The pandemic has forced local restaurants to reinvent themselves, shifting abruptly to takeout, outdoor dining and limited indoor capacity. Many haven't made it, and closures in the past year include local mainstays like Karl's Family Restaurant in Hixson, Flatiron Deli on Georgia Avenue and Two Squares on Amnicola Highway.

(Read more: Chattanooga businesses that closed in 2020 and others that evolved and hung on.)

Some local eateries have turned to philanthropic movements to survive.

Blue Orleans restaurant downtown recently won a Barstool Fund grant to help them hang on, while Charlie's Quick Stop BBQ and Bakery signed on for Plating Change.

In that program, "The Prophet" host Marcus Lemonis buys meals from restaurants which then give them to people in need. He bought 700 meals at $10 each in November and December from Charlie's, in addition to other eateries in other parts of the country.

Contact Mary Fortune at Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.