OCEAN CITY – After years of trying to broaden its horizons, La Hacienda confirmed this week it has a deal in place to open a second location in Ocean Pines later this year.
The Mexican restaurant has been in operation on 80th Street for 32-plus years, and owner Bill Herbst said for the last eight years he has been looking for a property to open his second establishment.
“After years of business at the beach, the time had come for us to find another location,” Herbst said on Tuesday morning.
This week his dreams came true as he signed the papers to open a second LaHa near the south gate of Ocean Pines that was previously the old Harbor Inn and previously Vineyards.
“I decided to push forward,” Herbst said. “We negotiated our way through it and here we are.”
The original La Hacienda in Ocean City has been open since 1979 and was at first a much smaller operation then what it entails today. Herbst said about 10 years ago he first expanded the restaurant adding 50 feet and two years ago it was expanded outdoors adding a patio and outside bar.
Herbst came close to settling on a second location about four years ago in Berlin, but a 33-month wait for permitting and approvals with the town he and his partner decided to start over and look elsewhere.
Herbst said this week Ocean Pines will be a nice fit for his restaurant.
“There is obviously other competition over there, but we have what I consider a very good reputation in Ocean City,” he said. “I want to take that reputation we have and bring it over there.”
Herbst is also eager to bring a portion of his reputable staff to the Ocean Pines location. He added that 80 percent of the menu, as well as beer, wine and liquor, will remain the same, and the 20 percent difference will just be a few additional items and options on the menu.
“I am not going to change anything that we do at the Ocean City location,” he said. “This is a new venture and a new location for us, but it will have a lot of the same features.”
La Hacienda plans to be up and running by Dec. 15. He is currently working on the regulatory process and issues. Herbst plans to have minor renovations completed on the building, or as he puts it “some TLC”.
“Give it a fresh look and a facelift and get some quality people in there to assist me in running it and hopefully we will be open soon,” he said.
Herbst’s main goal is to have the restaurant become functional and operational as quickly as possible but not to leave La Hacienda’s tradition behind.
“In Ocean City, we are a tradition for a lot of people,” he said. “I have people come in from all over the place that come to Ocean City annually and they love to eat at my place along with the locals.”
Herbst explained that La Hacienda is considered a landmark in Ocean City. He said he can only name a handful of other individually owned restaurants that have been in operation on the island as long as he has.
“I am very proud to be part of the group that is still here,” he said.
Along with adding the La Hacienda tradition to Ocean Pines, Herbst said the quality of food and staff will be consistent to keep his quests coming back for more.
“We’re going to take those values right over to Ocean Pines,” he said.
Herbst is excited to serve the Ocean Pines area as well as Glen Riddle, Berlin and Bishopville, which all are within eight miles of the new location.
“I am hoping that everybody that lives in that area will receive us with open arms,” he said. “I am looking forward to having them in our place in the near future.”