Business

Here's why Tio's on Hilton Head closed abruptly and what owners hope will happen next

tmoss@islandpacket.com

The abrupt closure of Tio's Latin American Kitchen on Hilton Head Island has left many locals scratching their heads.

The restaurant, which opened its doors less than a year ago, was last open for business April 1, Easter Sunday.

Tio's closed due to the resignation of the restaurant's chef and operator, Lynden Zuniga, and key staff members "loyal to the chef" who left with Zuniga, according to majority owner Jeff Hurt.

"As you know, replacing any employee on this island is not easy," Hurt said. "So instead of opening short-handed and underperforming, we decided to close."

Hurt's struggle to find and maintain staff is not unique. Hilton Head has faced a workforce shortage for years and many businesses have been forced to reduce days and hours to remain open.

Hurt said he was originally hoping to reopen the restaurant Monday, but realized it would be impossible to staff the restaurant properly.

"I think we certainly could bounce back faster without the workforce shortage," he said. "The length of time that we're going to have to be closed has a lot to do with the workforce shortage."

The future of the restaurant is still up in the air.

A restaurant will be opening in the space by the time tourist season kicks into gear at the end of May, Hurt said. But he is still uncertain if it will be a reopening of Tio's or an opening of a completely new restaurant.

"We are going to get this reopened. We just have to regroup on staffing and figure out how we're going to move forward," he said. "We're in the process of trying to figure out which direction we're headed."

Given the time, Hurt said he believes he will be able to staff the restaurant properly again..

The restaurant opened in August 2017 in the former Liberty Savings Bank at 87 Main St. It was known for its Cuban sandwiches, homemade tortillas, black beans and rice and tacos.

Zuniga had previously worked on the island for many years including at Skull Creek Boathouse and Palmetto Hall.

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