Cravings Blog

Downtown Mexican restaurants still working on plans to open

Senor Fajitas in downtown Bradenton was aiming for a November opening date, but now owner Pablo Larin is hoping for sometime in March.
Senor Fajitas in downtown Bradenton was aiming for a November opening date, but now owner Pablo Larin is hoping for sometime in March. ttompkins@bradenton.com

Both of downtown Bradenton’s new Mexican restaurants, Senor Fajitas and La Mesa, have more in common than cuisine type.

Pablo Larin, the owner of Senor Fajitas, 316 12th St. W., predicted an opening date of November 2016.

Joey Bennett, the owner of La Mesa, said he hoped to open the restaurant at 320 12th St. W. in January 2017.

It’s now February, and downtown Bradenton remains taco-less.

Getting the gas system hooked up in the kitchen at Senor Fajitas took almost a month, Larin said. Now he’s waiting on a visit from an electrician and the city of Bradenton fire marshal, among a few other pre-opening checklist items. As Larin isn’t the only one who needs a visit with the fire marshal, sometimes scheduling an appointment can take time, he said.

“The system was old, so we had to replace it,” Larin said of the kitchen’s equipment. “It’s a lot of headache and time. But that’s how you learn.”

Larin has been in the restaurant business since 1999, he said, but every venture brings new challenges.

Catherine Hartley oversees zoning, building, code enforcement and housing for the city of Bradenton as the planning and community development director. Hartley said many factors contribute to the often-prolonged process of opening a restaurant.

“We’re looking at doing interior building renovations in (Larin’s) case,” Hartley said. “We’re looking at getting plans reviewed by the planning department and the fire department. For adding plumbing or a walk-in cooler, all of that stuff requires a building permit.”

City of Bradenton permit and inspection records show a slew of partially completed and passed inspections for Larin’s establishment.

It’s a lot of headache and time. But that’s how you learn.

Pablo Larin, the owner of Senor Fajitas in downtown Bradenton

Larin is working to get the checklist completed. He knows the downtown Bradenton crowd is excited for Senor Fajitas to open.

“Believe me, I feel the same way,” he said. “There’s no income coming in right now.”

Restaurateurs often encounter issues when trying to open a new establishment. Anything from construction and permit issues to unanticipated pipes and water lines discovered during renovations can slow the plan to bring in another dining option.

Rov Avila, who will be the head chef at La Mesa, said they’re now hoping to open by May 5 for Cinco de Mayo celebrations, but it’s a target date at this point. Bennett said he’s waiting on permits from the city of Bradenton before he can give the green light to begin interior and exterior construction. City permit and inspection records for La Mesa show a similar pattern as Larin’s.

Bennett’s other downtown Bradenton restaurant, The Fish, is also waiting on permits for an expansion. He expects it to be done in six weeks.

There’s no way of knowing how long opening or expansion processes will take, Hartley said.

“It’s definitely a customization, because they could be going into a restaurant that was already there or going into an existing building that was an office to build a restaurant, so we have to look at it on a case-by-case basis,” she said.

Janelle O’Dea: 941-745-7095, @jayohday

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