This is Ariane Robitaille and Caroline B. Escobar, owners of the Tequila Lounge in Quebec City.
Ariane is from Quebec City and Caroline is from Mexico city. They met each other a long time ago, got married in Mexico before coming to Quebec on a honey moon that didn’t go exactly as expected as they are still in Quebec 6 years later. They opened Tequila Lounge when they were just 21 years old.
Ariane and Caroline started to work in the industry back when they lived in Mexico. After they decided to get married, they had to find a way to make enough money to pay for the wedding. The solution they found was to open a street food stand. They did it and it worked. They paid for their weeding in a few months, got married and came to Quebec for their honeymoon. When they decided to stay, they realized that operating a street food stand in the Canadian winter was not exactly a possibility. They thought about opening a café and Mexican bakery but it was at a time where people still loved going to Starbucks so a little independent café selling Mexican bread was not exactly the most secure investment. On the other hand, they found that there were very little Mexican restaurants in the city and decided to jump in the adventure of opening their first restaurant together at age 21. Pretty impressive.
Like Ariane likes to say, their task division is quite simple: Caro is the chef, Ariane orchestrates her talent. Ariane takes care of human resources and public relations. Caro manages everything kitchen related.
Food wise, 70% of what they use comes directly from Mexico. They order everything Caro needs to make almost everything herself: the mole, the salsas, the different meat stocks, etc. Eventually, they wanted to bring the same philosophy to their spirits selection so they opened their own imports agency specialized in agave spirits. When they opened Tequila Lounge 5 years ago, there was literally 4 tequila brands available at the SAQ and no one knew about mezcal. Today, they went from having 4 bottles on their back bar to 72, all agave spirits. Again, very impressive.
You probably understood by now that they have become experts in agave spirits. They go to Mexico thrice yearly to discover new producers and connect them with agencies back in Quebec. They are often consulted by the SAQ when they want to bring new tequilas or mezcal into the market (unfortunately, the SAQ is still very reluctant towards Sotol). A couple years ago, they were invited by Patron to take part in the Catadora de Tequila seminar to learn about making tequila. They crafted their very own batch and managed to bring one barrel back to Quebec. They are the only ones in Canada to own this title.
When talking to them, it was clear that they are both very passionate about Mexico. They love its food, they love its drinks but above all, they love its way of living. They make it their mission to provide their guests as well as their staff with the whole Mexican experience. Like Ariane told us, you don’t need to be Mexican or to speak Spanish to work for us. But even then, most of the guests would think they are all cousins when they work together. During the quarantine, they had weekly calls with all of the team to chat and make sure everyone was all right. Since they can meet outside, they do a Monday activity and everyone takes part in it.
Overall, we were extremely impressed by everything these two young entrepreneurs have achieved in such a short period of time. They were very inspiring to meet and we hope to have the chance to go for a few cocktails at their new speakeasy bar El Sòtano unfortunately closed due to the current pandemic.
A little bit more about Ariane…
The three words that describe her best: extrovert – friendly – big hearted
Life moto: Live what you have to live.
The quality she likes most about an employee: Sincerity. Kindness. Go-getter. She always prefers to know the truth even if it’s not a pretty one. She wants employees that are genuinely kind with others. And she doesn’t want to constantly have to push them so they attain their goals.
What she likes least about being an owner: The stress. There are a lot of preoccupations that accumulate with time and that can become quite stressful.
One advice she offers to future bar owners: If you believe in your project, you have to give it all you got. You can’t do it halfway and you can’t have doubts about it.