Tough times for expat entrepreneurs in Yucatan


By Yucatán Expat Life

Income evaporated but the bills did not, putting the future of our favorite businesses at risk

It’s hard to imagine what Yucatan will look like as we climb out of this pandemic. For years, especially in the last 10, expats have built businesses that we can’t imagine living without.

But as we finally emerge, one day, from the coronavirus crisis, will we have a Hennessy’s to go to? A SoHo Galleries to see the latest art exhibit? A Slow Food market for natural products and meeting friends? One expat hangout for the past 10 years, the cafe Pistache on the Paseo de Montejo, today posted a farewell note, with no hint that they hoped to return. Other favorites, like Flamante Burger & Friends or Bistro Cultural, are wrapping and sending meals while paying rent on dining rooms they cannot use.

We talked to several local entrepreneurs to get a sense of where they are headed.

ERICH BRIEHL, Bulldog Solar


On the business side, I find it troubling that when we see our neighbors in Canada and the USA acting on and delivering financial aid to their citizens and businesses, Mexico sits idle at the present to watch the destruction of the once flourishing small/medium business world, forgetting that they even exist, and even calling out that giving aid surmounts to a corrupt act.

I know I speak for myself in saying that I know I would not be in business if it were not for the employees and contractors that have worked for Bulldog Solar / Bulldog Group, which is why I didn’t even think twice about whether or not to pay them when the quarantine order was handed down.

I logically thought that Mexico would follow suit like its neighbors to the north and provide some sort of stimulus. Currently, that’s not the case. From what I understand, we are about to have a full shutdown like Italy, and the uncertainty of how we will be able to pay our workers if the government continues to refuse to step up and help.

ROBERT ABUDA, Robert Abuda Salon


We were one of the first businesses to close, on March 13. My parents were visiting Merida and my mom, as a retired infectious disease nurse, basically threw the hammer down.

A few weeks ago, I was absolutely confident that the salon would return, not totally unscathed, but would recover. Now, unfortunately, nothing is certain, it seems.

It’s a very scary time for everyone, and probably one of the first times in my life I have no idea what the future looks like professionally.

I think it will be a while before we can confidently open back up. … We also have to keep up with rent (no discount), IMMS for staff, taxes, etc. with no income coming in. Beauty salons are notorious for having large overhead and with no income, but this scenario is disastrous for any small businesses.

I work closely with Yucatan Giving Outreach and right now they are making and delivering despensa (pantry) bags to the most vulnerable people affected by all aspects of this. A bag costs 130 pesos and contains staples such as rice, beans, sugar, oil, powdered milk, pasta, tuna, soap, etc. … Last week they made and delivered 657 bags to 657 families. … If you can donate anything, YGO has a PayPal link at

JENNIFER UNDERHILL, Rancho Haltun Xiki (organic farm)

Jennifer and Dave Underhill

Not much has changed for us on the day-to-day side of things. We are delivering more products as people don’t want to go out — we are now delivering in Merida, east of Progreso and west of Progreso.

Some of the markets we sold at have shut down, the restaurants that we are supplying are no longer buying (and they still owe us money). As a result, our income is down and our costs are up as a result of doing deliveries.

The cost for paying to feed 400-plus animals, payroll for five employees, IMSS for those employees, CFE, and medications for the animals is huge!

If we are told we can no longer get to the village our farm is in, we are done. So far we’ve had no problems as the local police and mayor know who we are.

SEAN HENNESSY, Hennessy’s Irish Pub

Sean Hennessy

When this (coronavirus crisis) started my first concern was the people who work for me, what could I do, and for how long. The business is losing money now and will continue for a while but as a boss, it is the responsibility that kicks you in the gut.

The families depend on you. This is Mexico, not Ireland; they are going to get almost nothing from the government if I let them go. I also pay their health and housing benefits, so apart from spending nine years building up a profitable business with a future that’s now uncertain, the worst part for me would be to have to let people go.

I continue to hope that we can get through this, but I believe it is a long, difficult road ahead. It is not suddenly going to go away until a vaccine or an effective treatment is found. It certainly gets your priorities straight.

PARRISH KONDRA, developer, Caban Condos

Parrish Kondra

Unfortunately, there will be businesses that won’t survive this. You have to adapt, innovate, and change in these difficult times. It will take some time for some folks to feel comfortable traveling again, while others might be eager, waiting to board the next plane. Cruise ship traffic will take quite a few months if not years to fully rebound in the port of Progreso.

We have never been busier. The amount of traffic to our business has been through the roof lately. What this pandemic is doing is giving people the time to do the things they have always put off. For us, fortunately, that is searching for Mexico beach real estate, and we are thankful people are still very interested.

In all reality of this, I think there are a lot of people who can’t wait to visit or return to beautiful Mexico as soon as they possibly can.


The Mazatlan Post