El Rey Theater closes its doors

Posted at: 02/03/2014 5:23 PM
Updated at: 02/03/2014 5:28 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The bright lights have gone dark for the El Rey Theater, a show business landmark on Central Avenue in Downtown Albuquerque.

The El Rey was built in 1941 by Albuquerque’s Puccini family. They still own it. Over the years it’s been a movie theater and a live music venue and home to several different dark, dim taverns. The last impresario to lease it had to pull the plug this month, reportedly because of cash flow problems in another business venture.

“The El Rey closed down, and that was an attempt to bring some of the bar and live music back to downtown,” said Hunter Greene, a senior commercial real estate advisor with Sperry Van Ness. “That has hit some stumbling blocks and it’s been a challenge to bring them back.”

Just last week Downtown’s legendary La Esquina restaurant closed for keeps after 35 years in business at the First Plaza Galeria. Back in September Nick’s Café at Central and 5th closed after more than 30 years downtown. Owners of both restaurants complained about a dramatic shortfall of customers.

“Today it’s not a major employment center, “Greene said. “ You don’t have the critical mass there that’s going to create opportunities for restaurants and other retailers that are in the market.”

It’s going to get even worse later this year when the Gap Inc. Services Center will move its 400 employees out of the Galeria into new office space in the north I-25 corridor. Greene said some business revitalization will occur with construction of new multiple-unit residential property downtown.

El Rey’s lease is available for some investor out there who would like to try running a live music venue. Over the years some amazing musicians have played there – Etta James, Buddy Guy, Ramon Ayala, Lyle Lovett and the New Riders of the Purple Sage, just to name a few.