It's a tough time for the family behind Pepitos Mexican Grill, a fixture of the South Minneapolis dining scene since the 1970s.
Its owner, Joe Minjares, has been battling pulmonary fibrosis since 2011. With mounting medical bills and other financial burdens piling up – which are also putting the restaurant in peril – his friends are asking the community for help.
This week, a GoFundMe account was set up on Minjares' behalf. It has a fundraising goal of $50,000, and as of Tuesday morning has raised a little under two grand.
"As a result of the complications of the disease Joe is in a dire situation," organizers explain. He's "exhausted his financial resources" keeping the business running and paying for his medical treatments.
"Along with many other impacts of the disease Joe has been limited in his energy to continue operating Pepitos," they added.
Minjares is currently on oxygen 24 hours a day, and has been added to a lung transplant waiting list at the University of Minnesota, the fundraising page says.
In an interview with FOX 9, the businessman said he "may not be able to afford to keep the restaurant open much longer."
It's not only because of his illness, but also because of a litany of business-related financial problems, with the station saying the eatery "never recovered from the great recession."
In asking for help, Minjares' friends point to his many years of service to the neighborhood, as a "businessman, entertainer, comedian and community activist."
"Joe who has helped so many others over the years, now is in need of help both medically and financially," the GoFundMe says.
According to the Pepitos website, Joe and his wife Sue bought the restaurant in 1971, when it was still called The Colonial Inn. A few years later, they changed the joint's beer-and-pizza format to Tex-Mex and renamed it Pepitos, which they say refers to "Little Joe" or "Joey."
Since then, the Minjares family's business has grown to include the Parkway Theater next door, and a catering service.