Saints QB teases Edinburg visit

Edinburg EDC gave Brees’ restaurant $150,000 in incentives

NFL quarterback Drew Brees teased a possible visit to Edinburg to mark the opening of Walk-On’s Bistreaux and Bar, a Cajun-style franchise the New Orleans Saints player co-owns.

Brees delivered his message via a 13-second video he sent to Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina.

“Mr. Mayor, what’s going on? This is Drew Brees. I’m excited that we’re bringing the Walk-On’s to Edinburg,” he said from what appeared to be an airport. “Sorry I couldn’t be there for the grand opening. Promise I would, if I could, but I’ll come visit you at some point. Alright. See you later.”

Lots of you have asked about Drew Brees visiting Edinburg’s new Walk On’s restaurant. Take a look at the video he sent…

Posted by City of Edinburg-Government on Monday, April 1, 2019

The city shared the video to its Facebook page Monday — the same day the restaurant opened its doors in Edinburg — and within a day, it had garnered more than 20,000 views.

“Mayor Molina sent Mr. Brees a video inviting him to the grand opening in Edinburg,” city spokeswoman Cary Zayas explained via email Tuesday. “Mr. Brees was a great sport and also sent Mayor Molina a video letting him know he couldn’t be here for the grand opening but would be visiting Edinburg soon.”

The city, through its economic development arm, is betting big on the restaurant’s success. Last year, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation board awarded Haidar Properties Inc. $150,000 in incentives.

The developer already owned two other restaurants in Edinburg when the board made the decision, but EEDC noted it was the first time Haidar received an incentive.

As part of the contract, EEDC agreed to pay Haidar $150,000 over a three-year period, with the first $50,000 installment to be paid after receiving a certificate of occupancy. The second $50,000 installment will be paid after Walk-On’s first anniversary and the third installment after its second year in operation.

The contract includes a three-year clawback provision, which allows EEDC to reclaim any money previously awarded should Haidar fail to keep the terms of the agreement.

Haidar agreed to invest $3 million to construct the restaurant and to complete it within 18 months of the signed agreement, Zayas said.

In February, Walk-On’s held a job fair to help fill 160 positions, and on Monday it awarded three $1,500 checks to three local nonprofits, including the Edinburg-based Palm Valley Animal Center.

The economic development incentive was enough to woo Walk-On’s from Mission to Edinburg as both cities had been courting the Louisiana-based franchise. The Edinburg restaurant is the first of its kind south of San Antonio, which boasts two other locations.

Mission initially announced last year it would be home to the first Rio Grande Valley franchise, but the owners ultimately decided against it, said Daniel Silva, executive director for the Mission Economic Development Corporation.

At the time, the owner was hoping to open two locations in the Rio Grande Valley, with Mission being the first, but revenue projections in San Antonio fell short due to parking issues, and the owner ultimately decided to only open one location in the Valley.

Silva, who took over MEDC last year after former director Alex Mede left to manage Pharr, said he wasn’t part of the negotiations with Walk-On’s, but understood MEDC had also offered a mixture of incentives. He wasn’t at liberty to discuss them because there may be an opportunity in the future for Mission to continue negotiations with the restaurant.

“It was not free property,” he said about the city-owned space MEDC had platted for the restaurant. “It was a mixture of assistance with the (real estate) sales price and infrastructure.”

And as far as the $150,000 incentive Edinburg offered, Silva said he was under the impression Edinburg had offered much more.

“What I heard was more than what you mentioned,” he said about the $150,000 figure. “But it was contingent on them opening first (in Edinburg).”

However, if you ask Edinburg officials why their city was chosen, they likely point to the city’s allure.

“Walk-On’s understood the market here in Edinburg was more vibrant than Mission and thus decided to locate here,” Zayas wrote.

Silva said he also has high hopes for Walk-On’s because the owners indicated a second location could be opened if the Edinburg bistro performs well.

“I hope they are successful. It’s a new concept, and it seems to be a good company,” Silva said.

The Valley has historically been very receptive to new concepts, he said, which might skew the numbers for the first few months.

“Look at P.F. Chang’s,” Silva said about the franchise that first opened its doors in McAllen in 2007. “Probably for a year-and-a-half (after it opened) they had long lines and waiting times, and they’re still doing well.”

And now with a possible visit from an NFL great, the restaurant is poised to do well.

“Mayor Molina, he’s a go-getter and I know that he loves sports, so it’s right down his alley,” he said about the publicity stunt.