Longtime 23rd Street restaurant to close to make room for new wireless phone store

Courtesy: City of Lawrence/Dungan Design Group

The Taco John’s chain has a special each Tuesday where it sells cheap tacos. And for years, the restaurant’s slogan was “a whole lot of Mexican going on.” Yet, workers there still seem surprised when I bring a wheelbarrow to pick up my taco order. Regardless, there soon will be one fewer Lawrence location for all of us to get our Taco John’s deals.

Plans have been filed at Lawrence City Hall to tear down the Taco John’s at 1626 W. 23rd Street. Plans call for a new Sprint Wireless retail store to be built at the site.

If you are having a hard time picturing the location, it is at the northeast corner of 23rd and Ousdahl. It is part of a stretch of 23rd Street that has so many Mexican restaurants that I get salsa on my tie even if I happen to hit a long stop light. It is not much of an exaggeration to say that between Naismith and Ousdahl, every-other-driveway leads to a fast-food Mexican restaurant. In that one long block there is Taco Bell, Chipotle, the local legend Border Bandido and Taco John’s. As we have reported, Jack in the Box — which mainly is a hamburger joint but also sells tacos — has filed plans to also open in the block. It plans to go where the Long John Silver’s restaurant is located. (A reminder of a truism: Never bring fish to a taco fight.) For good measure, just west of Ousdahl, Qdoba decided to open last year.

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Taco John’s has been located at the 23rd and Ousdahl corner since 1974, said Leigh Ann Laster, who is a co-owner of the Lawrence Taco John’s franchise. The 23rd and Ousdahl store was the company’s first location in Lawrence. However, it now has two others — one near 23rd and Haskell and another near Sixth and Maine.

Laster said both of those restaurants will remain open, and there aren’t any other plans for downsizing the Taco John’s chain in Lawrence. She said her father and the founder of the Lawrence Taco John’s franchise, Ken Creasey, is beginning to retire from the business. Given that, she said the time was right to narrow the company’s focus down to two stores instead of three.

“But the other two stores will still be there for a long, long time,” she said.

Laster said the 23rd and Ousdahl store will close on Dec. 31, which is Sunday.

As for the Sprint Wireless retail store, evidently that stretch of street has a knack for attracting like things. The Sprint store basically will be across the street from a T-Mobile store. Plans call for the approximately 1,500-square-foot restaurant to be torn down and replaced with a new 2,200-square-foot retail store at an estimated construction cost of about $500,000, according to the plans on file at City Hall.

The plans also call for a fairly significant reconfiguration of the property. The new store would be moved much closer to 23rd Street, and the project’s 14 parking spots would be located in the rear of the store, which is closer to the adjacent residential neighborhood.

The other change is that the restaurant site currently has two driveways located off Ousdahl Road. The new plan calls for those two driveways to be consolidated into one driveway.

The Denver-based developer of the Sprint store said in its filing with City Hall that it hopes to have the wireless phone store open by the third quarter of 2018.