Long lines and empty stomachs greeted the reopening of La Divina Mexican Store on Delaware Avenue on Friday, three days after a raid by federal agents closed the Kenmore eatery and three other Mexican restaurants for harboring undocumented workers.
"I was excited when I heard they were going to reopen, and I wish I could have been here early to beat the crowd," said Michael Draganac of Pendleton, who was looking forward to downing four steak tacos.
"We like the food, and we feel bad that they didn't pay their taxes. I'm not saying that was right," said Michele Rowley of the City of Tonawanda. "Yet, their employees were good employees, and they worked really hard. I felt bad that they got deported, and we thought we should come here and support them and see what was going on."
George Dolce of Kenmore enjoys a taco at La Divina Mexican Store which was raided by federal officials. pic.twitter.com/gXWHPpL8Pw
— John Hickey (@jhickeyBN) October 21, 2016
The other Mexican restaurants owned by Sergio Ramses Mucino remained closed. They are Agave, 765 Elmwood Ave.; Don Tequila, 73 Allen St.; and El Agave, 3870 Union Road., Cheektowaga. Twenty-five people were arrested in all, including Mucino, who was released on $85,000 bail.
Mucino's wife, Yeslin Greason, was thrilled by Friday's turnout at the tacqueria.
"It's been overwhelming, but a good overwhelming," she said. "It's exciting and encouraging to see how many people are here. The support of the community is just amazing. We're very happy and pleased."
She said she and her husband were working on reopening the other restaurants, but she couldn't comment on what's now a legal matter.
Josh Unghire of Orchard Park extolled the virtues of La Divina's tacos while waiting in line.
"The tacos here are the best -- steak, chicken, the best around," he said.
He also expressed compassion for the workers here illegally.
"I thought what happened was unfortunate. It's not a great thing. Obviously they were breaking the law, but hopefully the people who were working were maybe working on their citizenship. You hope we allow people who bring something to our communities to get in," Unghire said. "But it's a great place, great establishment, really good food, and it's hard to argue with that."
He wouldn't get an argument from Cody and Jack Ceder, brothers from the City of Tonawanda who were eating with their mother, Debbie Green.
"We were terribly worried because we love it here," said Cody Ceder, who was eating three tacos and an al pastor, made with pork and pineapple.
"It's probably one of my favorite places to eat in the entire area," added Jack Ceder.