Tropicaleo, popular Puerto Rican eatery, is temporarily closing, cites labor shortage

Tropicaleo in Avondale
Tropicaleo in Avondale. Photo via Cheyenne Trujillo for Bham Now

Tropicaleo, the popular Puerto Rican and Latin American-inspired eatery on Crestwood Boulevard closed its doors temporarily on Monday citing lack of trained food service staff.

Tropicaleo opened in 2016. Along with a creative menu, the restaurant prides itself on offering healthy sustainable and ethnic dining options. For example, in January, the establishment became the first designated “zero egg” restaurant in Alabama.

In an interview with Bham Now, Gabriel Marrero, the owner of Tropicaleo pointed out the present shortage of food service workers as the reason for the temporary closure.  

“We decided to shut down temporarily, to reassess our business model and our procedures so we can be more efficient. We are not closing because we are not busy. We’re actually the busiest we’ve been in like 6 months. It’s not just about selling, it’s about, making a profit, having quality of life, both for the employees and for me, because I need to not die of stress here.”

Labor Shortage

Mofongo balls served with a frozen drink
Get the mofongo appetizer for a light brunch! Photo via Tropicaleo Facebook

According to Gabriel, the labor shortage with the local food service industry is widespread, and it is especially hard on small restaurants.

“There’s no labor,” he said.  “There’s just no one available to pick up positions in all aspects from the front of the house, administration, anywhere. It’s hard to find competent staff, and even harder to compete with larger businesses that have more capital backing.”

Is Tropicaleo Shuttered Forever? 

Different murals on Tropicaleo's patio outside
Good food + good atmosphere. Photo via Tropicaleo Facebook

The most important question Gabriel answered was about the future of Tropicaleo. Is this move permanent we asked? 

“I expect it to be about a month. I have no set timeline.”

Sustainability

Birmingham, Tropicaleo
Tropicaleo is once again finding ways to make Birmingham more sustainable. Photo via Tropicaleo’s Facebook page

An ardent conservationist, Gabriel also told us, that when Tropicaleo comes back, he wants to focus on sustainability.

“One of the big things I want to be able to achieve with my restructuring is sustainability. It is my way of life. With this new reality and the way business is going, I want to be able to be as sustainable as I can. It is something  I want to achieve and want to demonstrate. So other businesses can do so too. That for me is the most important thing you can do,” he concluded.

What’s Next

Let’s hope Tropicaleo’s closure is temporary and that they come back stronger and better than ever. Watch this space.


  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.