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Century-old Lerua's restaurant closing early next year for Broadway widening

Lerua's Fine Mexican Foods, a Tucson fixture for 96 years, will close early next year after the owners agreed to settle a long-running dispute over the fair-market value of the restaurant, which is slated for demolition as part of the Broadway widening project. 

In a legal settlement with the city, owners Mike Hultquist Sr. and his son Mike Hulquist Jr., agreed to sell the property for $615,250, and must be out before the end of April, while construction is scheduled to begin in June 2019. 

As part of the agreement, reached last week, the Hultquist family's restaurant can stay in the property rent free until March 31, 2019. 

The small adobe building at 2005 E. Broadway, near Norris Avenue, is one of a handful of properties that the city has yet to purchase as part of the $22 million project that will remake Broadway from Euclid Avenue to Country Club Road. This project will widen the road to six lanes, and add new bike lanes, sidewalks, and landscaping. 

The project is part of the larger Regional Transportation Authority created in May 2006 to complete $2.1 billion in improvements through the Tucson-area. 

Two years ago, the City Council adopted the part of the RTA plan that covers improvements to the two-mile section of the arterial roadway. The current design plan requires the city to purchase about 50 private properties under "Fair Market Price" evaluations. However, the owners of 13 properties and the city could not agree on prices for those properties, requiring a court process, the Tucson Weekly reported

While tamales steamed in the kitchen, and catering orders on butcher paper were marked off with a Sharpie, Mike Sr. and his son Mike Jr., said Thursday that they were waiting for the settlement to go through. 

"We're selling a lot of food, and we're working on as many catering orders as we can deal with," said Mike Jr. 

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"This is the last Christmas for Lerua's here, regardless," he said. 

The Hultquist family has owned the restaurant for decades, since Borgaro Hultquist bought Lerua's from founder Tony Lerua. Mike Hultquist and his brother Brad have worked in the families restaurants for most of their lives, helping when they when young, and returning to run Lerua's and El Torero after their mother and aunt needed help running the two restaurants, the Arizona Daily Star reported

"People have until December 18 to order tamales for Christmas, and we're making as many as we can," he said.  

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Lerua's Fine Mexican Food, a Tucson fixture for 96 years, will likely close early next year after the owners agreed to settle a long-running dispute over the fair-market value of the restaurant, which is slated for demolition as part of the Broadway widening project.