Jacksonville Beach's Campeche Bay Cantina closing after 33 years

With owners retiring, popular Mexican restaurant shutting its doors Wednesday

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – A popular Jacksonville Beach restaurant that has served countless dishes of Mexican cuisine and all kinds of drinks will close its doors Wednesday, Aug. 7, after more than three decades in business.

Since the owners are retiring, the decision was made to close Campeche Bay Cantina on First Avenue North, according to a statement released Monday afternoon.

“We opened this restaurant as three young guys and now, after 33 years, it’s time to close this door and
move to the next chapter of our lives," said co-owner Vince McGuire.  "We are forever grateful for the
folks who have made it an amazing journey."

After the closing of the restaurant -- which the owners described as serving "authentic, New Mexico-style Mexican food in a relaxed family atmosphere" -- was announced, patrons on Monday evening packed Campeche Bay to say goodbye. There was even a posted sign reading, "Sorry folks: If you're not on the list, we cannot take any more tables tonight!!!!!"

“It's a young man's, or young person's, business," co-owner Dave Boulier told News4Jax.

The people who were at the bar Monday night were regulars who had come to Campeche Bay for years. They said it's like "Cheers" -- where everybody knows your name. 

"I walk in and they say, 'Wheezy!' -- my nickname,” regular customer Brian Wiesnet said. "We’re probably going to tear up when we leave today.”

Another frequent customer, Chris Lamoureux, added, "Everyone at the bar knows each other. It’s a family."

Each person had their own reason why Campeche Bay felt like home. 

“This was my first job as a hostess. They’re all family," Jackie Sheptok said.

"This is my childhood restaurant. My parents brought here when I was younger," said regular customer Macy Parker before she and Sheptok proclaimed, "Long live the Bay."

The restaurant first opened in 1986 in the Arlington area and a second location opened in Jacksonville Beach in 1998 when the area was in the early stages of redevelopment. In 2007, the owners closed the Arlington restaurant to focus on the Jacksonville Beach business.

“We are extremely appreciative of our employees, customers and the cities of Jacksonville and
Jacksonville Beach for supporting us over our many years of operating," Boulier said.  "We are proud (to) have contributed to the economic vitality of our great community."

Restaurants come and go, but Campeche Bay stood the test of time -- 33 years to be exact -- because co-owner Tom Sprowell told News4Jax that they always served "great food."

"You got to have great food and good service," Sprowell continued. 

Monday's statement added that the third partner sees the closing as an opportunity for a new venture.

"As one door closes, another one opens," Sprowell said.

The owners said they are selling the building. They also said some of their greatest memories about the place were surviving hurricanes. 

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