Downtown wine bar owners welcome more business

HARLINGEN – When Luis Betancourt and his wife opened Carlito’s Wine Bar on Jackson Avenue downtown, they had some expectations.

“My wife and I envisioned a quaint, quiet place to come and drink a glass of wine or two, people trickling in and out,” Betancourt said yesterday afternoon while sitting comfortably on a leather couch under the bar’s red-painted duct work.

Instead, he says, once the evening rolls in – especially on weekends – “this place is crazy and it’s packed.”

Betancourt has been forced to adapt to this unforeseen but entirely welcome business reality.

After starting his wine bar with five employees, he now has 14. And yesterday, he said, he was on the phone to the newspaper to place a classified ad to hire even more staff.

“We really need to be 16, 17, 18 maybe,” he said.

The crazy weekend nights at Carlito’s Wine Bar make it one of the success stories in Harlingen’s Downtown District, a public-private partnership that was founded in 1989.

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