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Santa Fe about to lose a favorite eatery

SANTA FE – A beloved downtown restaurant will soon serve its final bites.

Santa Fe Bite, featured on the Food Network and in countless articles in national media for its world-famous green chile cheeseburgers, will close Oct. 26.

Current owners John and Bonnie Eckre moved their diner into Garrett’s Desert Inn at Old Santa Fe Trail and Alameda in 2013. Before that, they operated as Bobcat Bite in an old roadhouse on Old Vegas Highway for 12 years. That small eatery on the eastern edge of Santa Fe had been around through various owners since 1953.

“We are leaving for a number of reasons, some personal, some logistical, our lease has ended but basically am not able to do this kind of work anymore,” the Bite’s post reads. “Also we were not able to reach an agreement with the new landlords which would be mutually beneficial.”

The web post also says that this time, the Bite has no plans to relocate, though John Eckre said in an interview the couple may be open to selling the business — its name and recipes.

The restaurant’s lease officially ended in August but the restaurant has been able to remain on a month-to-month basis as the hotel’s ownership officially changed hands, Eckre told the Journal.

In June, the State Land Office announced that a local group, 311 Old Santa Fe, LLC, had been chosen to redevelop the 1950s hotel property. The Land Office took over the site in 2016 following three-way deal involving Cochiti Pueblo and Garrett’s former owners.

In an interview, Eckre was enthusiastic about the new lessor’s ideas to update the property. But he said the hotel plans don’t necessarily fit with the Bite’s business model. He said he’s always felt like the 150-seat downtown location was always something of an “ill fit” compared to the 27-seat setup they had at the cozy Bobcat, which the Eckres left because of a landlord-tenant dispute.

“It’s just not something I think would be a symbiotic relationship for both parties,” Eckre said of sticking around at the hotel. “I think they’ll find something good and successful here, and I look forward to seeing that for Santa Fe.”

The closure announcement came on Eckre’s 65th birthday. After some recent “soul-searching,” he said, he and Bonnie decided now was the right time to move on. Hes aid Bonnie had been working with the restaurant for about 28 years, and he a little less than that.

“Both working double shifts, six days a week,” he said. “All that time, (and) very, very little time away from the restaurant. We put a lot into it and pretty much there’s not a whole lot left in us for this kind of work.”

Asked what’s next for the couple, he said they’ll stay busy tending to their eight-acre residential property, which is home to some animals as well as a unit they rent out on Airbnb. They also may take some time to get away together. “We haven’t had a vacation here as long as either of us can remember,” he said.

Eckre said if the Bite is sold, he wants it to be someone who would maintain a “family-oriented” and “hands-on” business.

“I hope the Santa Fe Bite will rise again like a phoenix from its ashes,” he said. “But time will tell if that’s appropriate and will happen, I’m sure.”

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