End of an era: San Antonio Grill to close in Helena on Oct. 18

Published 10:34 am Monday, October 16, 2023

By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer 

HELENA – For many in Helena, it is the end of an era as San Antonio Grill, a staple restaurant in the community that has featured Mexican cuisine since 2006, announced that they will be closing their doors for the final time on Wednesday, Oct. 18.

The restaurant, which has served as a gathering place and family favorite for 17 years, announced the closure in a public post on social media on the night of Oct. 14. For owner Diana Autry, the closure is in large part due to a want to spend more time with family.

“I’ve been having trouble summarizing my feeling and emotions in a few sentences,” Autry said. “With Mom being almost 86, and I having been in the restaurant business since 1994, I hardly did anything with her outside of watching my kids playing sports while they were little. I’d like to have some time to take her somewhere she’d like to go, visit some old friends she’s been missing for so long or just have some time to hang out beside Mondays.”

The announcement was met with bittersweet support and thanks from the Helena community and, while most expressed an understanding, all displayed a certain sadness upon learning the news of the restaurant’s closure.

“You all come with coworkers, with family, from city meetings, bible study and with church families,” Autry said. “We might have catered your weddings, your kids’ graduations, school event, birthday or holidays parties. 17 years have given me so much great memories and I surely will be missing you all.”

Autry’s desire to spend more time with family, and the subsequent decision to close San Antonio Grill, was additionally spurred forward due to the restaurants lease soon coming up for renewal. Rather than renew, they made the tough decision to instead transfer their remaining months on the lease out of their name and to a new holder.

“We had to make a decision of what to do,” she said.

Autry’s announcement itself recognized the deep relationships that have been fostered between the owners, staff and community over their nearly two decade long run.

“I am here talking like I am talking to my old friends because y’all are,” Autry said. “A lot of emotions rushed through my mind in the last few days. I will be missing all of y’all.  (There are) many friends who I knew what’s going on in their lives, (I’ve) watched their kids growing up from sitting in high chairs, to riding bikes, to driving themselves and to leaving for colleges. Some older kids now are coming with their own families.”

While San Antonio Grill will close its doors for the last time on Wednesday, Oct. 18, the Autrys have announced that there will be another Mexican restaurant taking their place at the location.

“Most of all, we want to thank all of y’all and our employees for supporting and embracing us for so many years,” Autry said. “We are extremely humbled and appreciative because we could not have done it without all of you.”