LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A popular Mexican restaurant that has called Little Rock home for more than a decade caught fire early Wednesday morning.

A driver saw the flames coming from Riviera Maya off Interstate 630 and Fair Park Boulevard and called 911.

While work begins to clean up the mess left behind loyal customers like Juan Carlos Lopez are hopeful the restaurant can reopen soon.

“I come here like four to five times a week,” said Juan Carlos Lopez.

Riviera Maya is a lunchtime staple for Lopez.  

“We have friends that come really often, too,” said Lopez.

On Wednesday, the restaurant’s doors remained closed, and the parking lot sat empty after an early morning fire.

“My alarm called me early in the morning,” said owner, Manuel Servin

Owner Manuel Servin got the call around 4 a.m. He said while the outside of the restaurant appears untouched, the fire destroyed the kitchen’s prep area and the office.

“We are going to lose a lot of food and everything we just ordered. The supplies came yesterday and so now I have to throw it away,” said Servin.

According to the Little Rock Fire Department, the HVAC system on the roof collapsed causing most of the damage.

“The seating area looks well, but the kitchen, it looks completely devastated,” said Lopez.

Servin said he realizes the situation could have been much worse.

“You know, I got kind of upset and nervous at the same time, but I’m happy that nobody got injured. That’s the main thing about it,” said Servin.

Servin said while it’s a devastating blow, especially after being forced to close during the early stages of the pandemic, his priority is taking care of those who work for him.

“Most of my employees, they are like a family because they have been here with me for a long time,” said Servin.

He said he is thankful for loyal customers like Lopez.

“I’m just going to support them. I hope everyone is okay in the future and it will be opened quick,” said Lopez.

Servin said he is hopeful the restaurant can reopen soon.  

“Just give us a little patience and pray for us,” said Servin.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Servin said he plans to move some of his employees to Riviera Maya’s second location off Interstate 30 in Little Rock, so they can work while the Fair Park location is being repaired.