The owners of Huarachitos, the beloved Columbia City taqueria that suffered a serious fire last week, say the restaurant is unlikely to reopen until the fall.
Insurance agents have warned Jose Luis Pantiga and Ana Martinez that it will take eight to 10 weeks to issue the check they need to begin rebuilding.
"The summer is going to be gone," says Martinez. "That's our best time, that's our happy time."
Pantiga and Martinez "left (the restaurant) neat and clean" last Wednesday night.
Around 3:30 a.m. Thursday, "we got a call," Martinez continues. "They wouldn't let us in for an hour. When we came in, it was so sad, we couldn't believe it. My paintings are gone, everything is gone. Whatever is left is smoked."
According to Seattle Fire Department spokesperson Helen Fitzpatrick, the fire was caused by an overheated electrical cord in the kitchen. Martinez suspects it originated around the refrigerator, since she always makes sure to switch off a power strip that holds the television's plug.
Investigators estimated the damage at $100,000.
"We're heartbroken," Martinez says. "We miss everybody."
Huarachitos' faithful fans have scribbled supportive messages on a sandwich board erected outside the restaurant and shared their condolences on the restaurant's Facebook page.
"We're not very computer-savvy, but we were able to put something on Facebook, and they're leaving little notes," says Martinez, who proudly refers to her loyal patrons as "hand-picked."
Martinez wants to assure her customers that the restaurant will return "stronger than ever."
"We don't want to go," she says. "We love everybody."
But for now the couple is dealing with the grief of losing their 2-year-old restaurant. "You know what's the hardest part?," she says, her voice cracking. "Every day we feel worse. I thought we'd feel better. But it doesn't work that way."