A Syracuse restaurant opened to much fanfare last summer. Six months later, it’s closed

Luna Loca, a “California Tex Mex” restaurant that opened to great acclaim in downtown Syracuse last summer, has closed for good.

The restaurant at 304 E. Onondaga St. near Columbus Circle (in the former location of The Mission) served its last meals on Saturday, January 15.

Owners Ryan and Leigh Ann Benz, who also operate the Oh My Darling! restaurant on South Salina Street downtown, Luna Loca had announced the closure via an Instagram post on Friday.

“Thank you! To our loyal customers and our community, after loving this business and the team that made it what it was, we have made the difficult decision to close our doors. Our last day is Saturday January 15th We loved what this brand has become and appreciate everyone who dined in our space! Thank you for your understanding and continue to stay healthy. We will honor all Luna gift cards at Oh My Darling! For any questions, please email us at [email protected]

Ryan Benz declined to comment further when contacted by syracuse.com today, other than the text: “The industry challenges right now are well documented.”

These challenges include the rise of the Omicron variant of the Covid virus, which has led to new orders for masks / or vaccinations from the State. The new Covid cases have also compounded existing difficulties restaurants have in hiring and retaining staff. And there are still issues with supply chain delays and rising commodity prices.

Oh my darling! and its cocktail lounge, The Fitz, remain open at 321 S. Salina St. Ryan Benz, meanwhile, is also leading the ShoppingTown mall redevelopment project in DeWitt.

The mission had closed in December 2020 after a 20-year run in the historic former church just off Columbus Circle. Chef-owner Steve Morrison had cited Covid issues as a factor in the decision.

In opening Luna Loca (meaning Crazy Moon), the Benzes opted to trade The Mission’s former “Pan American” cuisine for a menu heavily inspired by California and Texas as well as Mexico.

“With the book on The Mission closed, the Benzes have brought another modern twist to dining in the Syracuse landscape,” Jared Paventi of syracuse.com wrote in a review in October. “Luna Loca’s focus on the Californianization of Tex-Mex cuisine is accessible, flavorful, and brings a new dimension to this style of cooking for local diners.”

This is the second permanent restaurant closing in downtown Syracuse this month. Last week, the PressRoom Pub on Herald Place announced its closure, also due to pandemic concerns.

Related: What is behind the recent wave of temporary restaurant closures in CNY?

Don Cazentre writes for NYup.com, www.syracuse.com and the postal standard. Join it at [email protected], or follow him on NYup.com, to Twitter Where Facebook.

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