PORTLAND, Maine — When city officials call a parking ban in Portland, it’s good news for burrito lovers.
York Street Mexican restaurant El Rayo Taqueria greets every potentially business-dulling parking ban with a $5 burrito deal, cutting about 50 percent off the average price of its signature orders. On Wednesday, the city called its third parking ban of the season, barring on-street parking citywide overnight to allow plow trucks the space to clear snow after the storm.
El Rayo has been doing the promotion for about two years, said head line cook Casey Turner, and now snow days are regarded as burrito days by many of the restaurant’s loyal customers.
“We’ve had a lot of people coming in today asking about [$5 burritos],” said Turner. “Everyone loves a good burrito, so getting everybody out here is a way of spreading joy when people are normally upset and annoyed by parking bans.”
El Rayo’s 101 York St. location has its own parking lot, so the parking ban doesn’t limit access to that particular establishment.
On Wednesday afternoon, Andrew Sawyer of Portland decided to spend his $5 on a verduras burrito — made up largely of grilled vegetables.
“It’s going to warm me from the inside out,” Sawyer said. “Coming in from the snow chill, Jack Frost nipping at my nose, this burrito is the hot tamale in my shoes. It’s the jumping beans. It’s like a summer’s day in here when it’s the harshest nor’easter out there.”
Other favorites at El Rayo are the pollo burrito, which includes citrus and cumin-marinated chicken and on days without a parking ban costs $7.50, and the Yucatan, featuring locally caught pollock and normally selling for $7.95.
Christopher O’Neil, consultant for the Portland Community Chamber, called the promotion “a great example of the business community in Portland being inventive.”
“Portland’s got a funky cadre of businesspeople who know how to make it happen regardless of the circumstances,” he said.
O’Neil said snowstorms and parking bans affect different businesses in the city differently, depending on where they are and who their clients are.
“I’ve sat in the Front Room on Munjoy Hill during a blizzard and had an hour wait, because it’s a pedestrian neighborhood,” O’Neil said. “On the other hand, a business someplace away from a parking garage that is not in a pedestrian neighborhood might fare less well.”
Turner said El Rayo Taqueria and its neighboring companion bar El Rayo Cantina frequently run promotions even when it isn’t snowing. She said the taqueria donates 10 percent of its Sunday revenues during the first four months of the year to different arts-based nonprofit groups, with this coming Sunday’s donation to benefit the venue One Longfellow Square.