"Yo quiero Taco Bell."
Key Westers no longer will have to send the iconic talking Chihuahua 50 miles up the road for a burrito.
The rumors are true. Taco Bell is returning to Key West in its former location at 2338 N. Roosevelt Blvd.
The new franchisee hopes to have the renovated store open by the end of the year, said Key West Realtor Curtis Skomp, who brokered the lease at the end of June with franchise owner Jody Luihn of Luihn Food Systems.
Luihn currently operates about 80 chain restaurants in North Carolina and other parts of Florida. Luihn Food Systems includes Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, Long John Silvers, Hurricane Grill and some combinations thereof.
The Key West store will be a Taco Bell, not a combination, said Teresa Eberwein, marketing director for Luihn Food Systems in Morrisville, N.C.
"We anticipate having it ready and open by the end of the year," Eberwein said, adding that they've hired a local contractor and are using all local workers for the renovation project.
The restaurant will be hiring about 30 employees as the opening date approaches, she added.
"We'll be holding job fairs, and will put up a banner at the store when we're ready to start accepting applications," she said, adding that Luihn owns a home in Islamorada, but this is his first restaurant venture in the island chain.
"We're excited to become a part of the Keys community," she said.
The new Taco Bell will have an entirely new and improved look.
Its predecessor had been in the North Roosevelt Boulevard location since the 1980s, Skomp said.
"But that franchise went bankrupt in 2009," he said, happy to be able to fill one of the empty storefronts on the boulevard with a popular eatery.