Rockin' Baja Franchise To Reopen With New Owner

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A former employee of the Rockin' Baja Coastal Cantina is reopening the restaurant later this month.

Paul Manning, who previously worked for the restaurant under Rockin' Desert LLC, is reopening the restaurant through a new franchise owner, Wam Foods Inc., which also owns a Rockin' Baja Huntington Beach location.

"It feels fantastic," said Manning, restaurant co-owner and director of operations for Wam Foods Inc.

"I certainly believe that one of the reasons why we chose to reopen was because of the hundreds of e-mails that we received since the restaurant closed down," he said.

The 5,900-square-foot franchise seafood restaurant was closed for four months because of financial reasons, Manning said.

In June 2007, Adolfo Cedeno and his wife Martha acquired a franchise deal to open two Rockin' Baja restaurants in the Coachella Valley under the franchise company Rockin' Desert LLC.

The Cedenos opened the La Quinta location in March in the One Eleven La Quinta Shopping Center.

The La Quinta restaurant closed in September, and the second franchise restaurant was never opened. Manning, who previously worked for Cedeno, cited "financial reasons." Cedeno could not be reached for comment.

After the restaurant closed, an e-mail address for Rockin' Baja's La Quinta location received at least 100 e-mails from valley residents disappointed about the closure.

The e-mail address went to the former owners and employees of Rockin' Desert LLC, which included Manning.

Wam Foods Inc. opened the franchise's Huntington Beach location in December, and it owns rights to develop five Rockin' Baja restaurants in the Los Angeles area, Manning said.

La Quinta restaurant staff are repainting some of the murals and re-tiling around the salsa bar. The restaurant is also in the process of receiving its liquor license from the city, and officials hope to have it by the time the restaurant opens, Manning said.

Rockin' Baja will employ between 45 and 55 people. About 80 percent of the original staff will return, Manning said.

Palm Desert resident Ron Eggleston, 67, said he and his wife Sandy ate at the restaurant once or twice a week. He found out about the restaurant's closure in September.

"I was devastated," he said. "I had taken a lot of people and my friends out there. Everybody I took there loved it, and we went there one night and it was closed. I was shocked." Eggleston said he is "tickled to death" that Rockin' Baja is reopening.

"There were great food and great employees," he said. "They were all great people and very friendly."

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