After The Flood: Barrio Reopening at the Barlow

This tiny Mexican cafe is the first restaurant to reopen after the devastating Feb. flood

The teeth-chattering thrum of power washers on the sidewalk near Carlos Rosas’ cantina at The Barlow in Sebastopol are a hopeful sign of progress five weeks after disastrous flooding closed or damaged nearly half of the 40 businesses.

Though the road to rebuilding will be longer for some, Rosa’s Barrio Fresca Cantina will be the first restaurant to reopen on Monday, April 8.

“We are the tiniest space at the Barlow, that’s the reason we could reopen so soon,” said Rosas, whose entire kitchen is 249 square feet.

Diners either take the food to go or sit in the outside patio area. Barrio opened in November 2017 and employs three full time and nine part-time staff.

“It’s been a surprise and a blessing from God. When I saw (the restaurant), it was so bad. I thought we wouldn’t be able to open for two to three months,” said Rosas.

While the restaurant was closed, Rosas went to work for another restaurateur to help pay the bills, which kept coming despite the closure.

To help offset the loss, Rosas, like many Barlow businesses, started a Go Fund Me page that raised $7,000 to pay for lost equipment.

Rosas said Barlow management had helped with construction repairs. Barrio staff, said Rosas, had other work during the closure but are coming back to the restaurant on Monday. He’s mostly grateful that no one was hurt.

“Everything is easy to replace in the restaurant business.

“For me, the most important thing is the employees. They’re like a family, and I’m so happy to have my family,” Rosas said.

As to whether or not he thought customers would return to The Barlow, Rosas has a positive outlook, ironically, because of the name recognition the flood brought to the space.

“I used to be a commercial,” said Rosas. He explained that many people didn’t know where The Barlow was, or even that it existed.

“Now everyone knows where it is. I know it’s going to be successful. There will be even more people, more traffic, because people want to see what happened.”

So, with more rain possible in the forecast, is he worried Barrio could flood again?

“Something I learned from this is that I don’t know what is going to happen in the future. I used to worry about the future, I used to be stressed about business, numbers, customers, everything.

“I finally see the light, because it was all gone in three hours (during the flood). Now I just want to be focused on making good food, being happy and not worrying about what happens in the future,” he said.