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

The restaurant, which holds a beer and wine license, is sandwiched between two of Semillas del Pueblo’s schools on Huntington Drive.

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.

School accuses restaurant of alcohol license violations. Pictured: A beer delivery truck parked in front of the restaurant and schools on April 23. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

“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.

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March 29, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

Comments

4 Responses to “Charter School Lambasts ‘Landmark’ Eatery”

  1. Brandon on March 30th, 2012 11:32 am

    This story has yet to explain why a school would move next door to a restaurant bar in the first place.

  2. Teresa Marquez on March 30th, 2012 3:04 pm

    I would be the first to agree, that no school should be 1000 ft from a business selling or serving liquor,or liquor licenses. But we must be logical, that no school should be built or establish less than 1000 ft from the location and definetely next to an existing restaurant that has a permit to sell alcohol. This is not a democratic process, we must adhere to the rights of businesses that are already establish and not only hold a an open door to the community but also participate in helping the community as this business has.
    There was one thing that I would question, has this restaurant change their permits to offer other adult entertainment after the school was establish. Depending on what that is, the school may have the right to protest any type of additinal activity that should may be of poor choice to have next to a school. Such as CUX permits.

  3. Gregory Arroyo on April 7th, 2012 12:10 am

    Great reporting.

  4. rene diedrich on July 8th, 2013 11:36 pm

    This charter school is an absolute afffront to the community. It has been allowed to act lawlessly as it operates outside laws. Let me explain. This school is doing very poorly and as its performance plummets, the school board has an obligation to close it according to state education codes and federal laws. LAUSD notoriously closed another charter with far more success in an area of skid row that desperately needed it and many other campuses beside. But this charter mutant has been permitted to operate because Monica Garcia, then board president, used her pull to keep her pal afloat. Like too many positions of power in the LA school system, she uses hers to serve her cronies and and wealthy benefactors. It is an infuriating and destructive epidemic that has allowed these people to defame teachers, critics, parents, community leaders, and now this establishment which is kind of a landmark in East LA.
    The tactics the school administrators employ to harass the place and its customers are downright disturbing as they involve students, who apparently play in the parking lot, bang drums and protest outside inside of focusing on lessons. What kind of educators exploit children in a beef with the school’s neighbors? The accusation that booze is advertised in the windows of a Mexican eatery is just stupid given the long residence of the place and the school’s awareness of where they put the campus when they chose that site. Moreover, these urban rug rats are not sheltered or shocked by beer ads. They see them all over town, probably have parents who like a brew after work and watch TV shows with far worse adult content than wine coolers offered on ladies night, with or without strippers.

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