Hot dish: After four long years for Tex-Mex lovers, Houston restaurateur Domenic Laurenzo plans a mid-November opening of Laurenzo’s El Tiempo Cantina, 20237 Interstate 45 in Webster.
Fans — and there are lot of them — had pretty much given up hope after a breach of contract lawsuit delayed construction and opening in the 15,000-square-foot building formerly occupied by Big Ben Tavern.
Laurenzo almost gave up hope, too, he said.
“At one point, I never thought it would see the light of day.”
In September 2014, Domco Inc., the company that operates El Tiempo restaurants, along with its construction division, MKWW Management Inc., filed a lawsuit against Liquid Gold Hospitality Group and five of its managers, accusing them of bouncing checks and breaching a licensing agreement, among other things.
Under the first-ever such licensing agreement for El Tiempo, Liquid Gold Hospitality was to open the Webster eatery by May 1, 2015, according to the lawsuit.
Under the terms, MKWW Management would serve as the general contractor and design consultant and manage construction at the Webster building, all to be paid by Liquid Gold Hospitality, according to documents.
The process ran smoothly enough until March 2014, when Liquid Gold bounced a check, according to court documents. Subcontractors were delayed in being paid, according to the lawsuit.
Liquid Gold Hospitality Group answered the lawsuit by accusing Domco of putting Domenic Laurenzo in charge of construction and driving up expenses in attempts to make the Webster restaurant a showpiece for the chain.
The parties resolved their differences over the summer and the Laurenzo family will control the 15,000-square-foot Webster restaurant, the largest in the company’s portfolio.
Crews resumed construction in July but the project had been idle for so long during the dispute, remedial work was needed, Laurenzo said.
Then Hurricane Harvey came along, which cut two weeks out of construction. Laurenzo’s El Tiempo Cantina is shooting to open before Thanksgiving Day, which is Nov. 23.
Laurenzo is the grandson of Maria Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo, also known as “Mama Ninfa.”
Ninfa’s Restaurants became one of the most well-known Mexican restaurant chains in Texas and is credited with launching the fajita movement in Houston.
Laurenzo said he was glad to have the lawsuit resolved.
“That was a drain on time and resources and energy,” he said.