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Taco Fusion owners speak up about closing Ybor site

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Published:   |   Updated: October 9, 2013 at 10:46 AM

The controversial restaurant with lion meat tacos on the menu had an ever-so-short lifespan in Ybor City.

The building where Taco Fusion opened in Ybor City is now closed, with “For Rent” signs surrounding the property.

In a post on the company’s Web site, restaurant owners wrote, “What originally started as a project to bring in exotic flavors from around the world, quickly turned into a media fire storm, focusing on one thing: The lion taco. Apparently, some believe we had a diabolical culinary plot to upset the fine citizenry of Tampa Bay; I can assure you, that was not our goal.”

Though they once defiantly kept lion on the menu, they officially took it off Aug. 19.

“This does not mean it won’t be back at some point,” the statement read. “But for now we’d like people to focus on all the great stuff we are doing,” such as a new General Tso’s burrito and other items.

For a time, the restaurant operated on Bay to Bay Boulevard in South Tampa, but amid a dispute with the building owners, the operations relocated this August to a walk-up, open air location on 17th Street in Ybor City. Now, the Taco Fusion signs there have been taken down. Chairs on the deck are locked together with chains, and soda dispensers were stacked by a side alley.

After the move to Ybor City, crime in the area contributed to their problems, as owners said that a shooting next door and a stabbing nearby prompted the police to “understandably” tell people not to stand around the open-air space at the restaurant for their safety in the late-night hours.

This marks a remarkable turn of events for Taco Fusion, which made headlines and attracted scorn worldwide after the restaurant expanded an already unusual menu to include items such as bear, kangaroo and lion meat, which owners said came from domestic farms.

Their closure now makes the Ybor City location immediately available, building owner Richard Perez said.

“They were working on construction for a few months,” Perez said Tuesday. “But they were only open a week. I don’t know what happened or why they closed so fast. It’s a nice location, and if you have good food, people will come find you.”

rmullins@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7919

Twitter: @DailyDeadline

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