Charter School Lambasts ‘Landmark’ Eatery
Perplexed restaurant owner calls the school’s complaints defamation.
By Gloria Angelina Castillo & Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou, EGP Staff Writers
At a recent meeting on alcohol use in Boyle Heights, Principal Marcos Aguilar of Semillas del Pueblo charter schools complained that an El Sereno restaurant, Hecho en Mexico, was being a bad neighbor.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Escuela Charter Arremete Contra Restaurante Bien Conocido
At the meeting, a female speaker affiliated with Aguilar claimed the restaurant displayed a picture of a Maragarita cocktail in front of young children, and is holding “Ladies Nights” with exotic male dancers.
“Our school is on either side of the restaurant and we want to know how can elected officials support us in obtaining money to move to maybe a better location?” she asked.
Aguilar then cut in. “Why isn’t ABC [the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control] enforcing clear violations of liquor license in El Sereno [near our schools]?” he asked.
Will Salao, district administrator for ABC, responded saying nothing had been done because there have been no complaints filed. “We are a complaint driven agency. If you have a complaint, file it with us, and we’ll get to it,” he said.
Since the meeting on March 15, EGP attempted to contact Aguilar by phone and email to clarify his statements, but he has not responded. He was not at the school during a recent visit by EGP.
The current owner of Hecho en Mexico, Connie Castro, reacting to Aguilar’s comments, told EGP on Tuesday that “it was a surprise and a shock to us, because [the school] never spoke to us regarding the issues until recently,” adding that their restaurant has been in the same location, under different owners, for over fifty years, and is a “like a landmark in the El Sereno neighborhood.”
Castro is in the process of gathering letters of support from community members to send to the ABC in the event of a complaint, and says Aguilar has even told parents at his school to boycott her restaurant.
They have already taken down the poster that the school found offensive, she said, claiming that the poster actually depicted a glass of lemonade, with a lemon twist, and was not a picture of an alcoholic drink.
She says the statements by the speaker at the meeting that there were exotic dancers at her restaurant is tantamount to defamation.
Castro and her husband purchased Hecho en Mexico eight years ago, around the same time the school moved in. She claims previous owners already had alcohol licenses. According to California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control spokesperson John Carr, Castro’s license was originally issued in 2004, and the previous owner held a license originally issued in 1988.
“We’ve had no complaints with the ABC, no incident with LAPD, never had incidences actually, which is why it’s surprising to us,” said Castro, who noted that the restaurant’s occupancy history actually dates back to 1929.
She says that contrary to Aguilar’s portrayal of their restaurant, they are well-liked and active in the community. “We spoke to Councilman [José Huizar’s] office just recently, and they told us we passed every single permit with flying colors. We’ve never had an incident ever, always been very positive in communities, and fundraisers for various school,” she said.
Castro said they are more of a family restaurant, than the bar-like environment that Aguilar seems to portray. “It’s a place where people in the local community, if they are having a really pretty birthday celebration, or quincenera, they come here,” she said.
UPDATE: The Office of Councilmember Jose Huizar has encouraged both parties to use the City Attorney’s Dispute Resolution program to workout their differences, according to Huizar’s spokesman, Rick Coca. “We’d like to see an amicable resolution to their differences,” he told EGP in an email on March 30.Print This Post
March 29, 2012 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.