Okay, maybe “the worst PR move since Watergate” is a little dramatic (edit: very dramatic), but our community is, once again, facing a public relations nightmare.
If there was a dictionary written specifically for Sonoma State University and the resulting college community, and you looked up “Taco Tuesday”, there would be a picture of El Torito.
El Torito has long been a safe haven for many taco-loving Seawolves, offering delicious and affordable Taco Tuesday evenings in their cantina. This has been a breeding ground for sorority and fraternity events, club outings, quick runs with friends between study sessions – I wouldn’t be surprised if someone fell in love here. I mean how could you not, engulfed in a festive atmosphere with people you treasure almost as much as the food.
But everything changed when unnecessary corporate policy attacked.
This past week, hopeful taco-goers arrived at El Torito as per usual on a jolly Tuesday evening, only to be stopped by a sign informing customers that they must be 21 years of age or older in order to enter the cantina.
As Mariah M. commented on the restaurant’s Yelp page:
“I have been a loyal DAY 1 home girl of this awesome Mexican restaurant. Great visits throughout the week but my all time favorite for a year and a half IS TACO TUESDAY. Why the all caps you ask? BECAUSE IM VERY UPSET. Why? BECAUSE IM 19 AND NOW YOU HAVE TO BE 21 FOR THE CANTINA TACOS AND CANT GET THE BEAUTIFUL TACOS YOU SELL ON TACO TUESDAY FOR A $1 NOW. As someone apart of not only the RoPo and SSU community, I looked up to El Torito for offering such a cheap night out for broke college kids like myself. It breaks my heart and I feel tossed to the side being left out of the celebration that is taco Tuesday. I hope the management reconsiders changing it back to all ages. It was a great night out for family’s, friends, and our community”.
To make matters worse, El Torito has been unable to offer a valid explanation for this catastrophe. After giving the restaurant a couple days to regroup, my friends and I decided to call to inquire about a reasoning (if any). The woman initially answered the phone warmly, but quickly turned robotic upon detecting our inquisition. The only answers we could squeeze from her probably tight and taco-less lips were “it’s a corporate policy” and “we have to take precautions.”
From a public relations perspective, El Torito’s actions are not ideal. The restaurant has a relationship with the college community, and with this great relationship comes great responsibility. After all, making Taco Tuesday 21+ means cutting out a large portion of the cantina’s customers, not only those who are under 21, but those who would normally attend with younger friends. This means no more sorority sisterhoods, fundraisers, club dinners – 100 to 0 real quick. As a student, I want to take El Torito by the shoulders and scream “we trusted you!”. As a public relations professional, I want to look them in the eyes and demand an explanation.
Further, the restaurant is enacting a policy that doesn’t make sense. Are they saying their tacos suddenly alcoholic? Or are they saying that individuals are biologically incapable of eating tacos in the same room as heavily guarded alcohol without underage drinking? Seeing that both of these statements are obviously untrue, I can’t even begin to speculate on any reasoning. They seem to be attempting to address the risk of underage drinking resulting from the bar-like atmosphere of the cantina. But from what I’ve seen and heard, El Torito cards heavily, and as long as they continue carding those purchasing alcoholic beverages, there shouldn’t be any issue. Which, legally, they need to be doing anyway. Even if it is “from corporate”, El Torito owes all of its customers a real explanation.
To wrap up my hangry rant, a story: Perhaps my favorite part of my own experience this tragic Taco Tuesday was the fact that we were welcomed with open arms at the food court’s taco station – at the nearby casino. If a literal CASINO can handle serving customers under the age of 21, why can’t a restaurant? What’s next, I can’t breathe oxygen until I can drink alcohol? There’s no logical correlation.