A sign on the front door of Carlitos’ Mexican Restaurant in Longview tells would-be patrons Thursday morning the business is closed until further notice.

The future of a longtime locally owned restaurant in Longview is unclear after it unexpectedly closed Wednesday.

A sign Thursday morning on the door of Carlitos’ Mexican Restaurant in the Judson Road shopping center just south of Loop 281 read, “Closed until further notice. Thank you.” The message was signed by owner Carlos Rodriguez.

A woman leaving the business Thursday afternoon referred questions about the restaurant to Rodriguez. He did not immediately respond to a telephone message Thursday.

Rodriguez opened the original Carlito’s Restaurant and Cantina in 1980 on South Green Street, according to News-Journal archives. He opened a second location six years later in Oak Forest Shopping Center at Bill Owens Parkway and Loop 281 and a few years later settled at the Judson Road restaurant, according to a story in a November 2009 News-Journal.

A story in an October 1986 edition of the Longview Morning Journal reported Rodriguez moved up the ranks of the restaurant industry from busboy to waiter to bartender and finally to manager.

Before opening the original Carlitos’ in Longview, he was general manager of a Dallas Restaurant, Marianos, for seven years. He also worked for the Venetian Room in Dallas’ Fairmont Hotel.

Rodriguez closed the original location as a restaurant in March 1987.

Rodriguez’s brother, Gerald, worked with him at Carlito’s when it was located in the former Johnny Cace’s building downtown. Gerald Rodriguez went on to own and operate Tyler Street Bistro and Gerald’s Social Club, adjacent and well-frequented downtown businesses, until he died May 7, 2017.

If Carlitos’ does not reopen, it would become the second longtime locally owned Longview Mexican restaurant to close in less than a year.

Gonzalo’s Mexican Restaurant, 1625 W. Loop 281, closed in September after 39 years in operation.

Carlitos' file

This photo from the Oct. 5, 1986, Longview Morning Journal shows, from left, chef Leonardo Ortiz, Mrs. Ortiz and Carlos, Alician and Gerald Rodriguez. It ran with a story about Rodriguez opening the Carlitos’ restaurant at Bill Owens Parkway and Loop 281.