WICHITA — Bridge repairs near 21st and Amidon aren’t all that are hurting Frida’s Mexican Grill.
The popular restaurant is struggling to get proper zoning for its special events room so customers can have parties with dancing.
“We can make a soap opera right now,” owner Mario Quiroz says of his situation.
When Quiroz, who also is an owner in La Mesa Mexican Restaurant, first opened near Thai Binh grocery on West 21st in April 2008, he planned to have a comedy club attached to his restaurant. He envisioned it as a “Loony Bin but for the Hispanic community.” He had a liquor license and a cabaret license, which was allowed in that shopping center’s community unit plan.
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“I decided not to do that,” he says of the comedy, explaining that most comedians want to be paid up front. “It’s too risky.”
So Quiroz began having events in the space instead, but then he learned he needs a dance hall permit. He can’t get that without an amendment to the CUP. That’s because an establishment with a liquor license, a cabaret license and a dance hall license is considered a nightclub, and the CUP doesn’t allow a nightclub.
Quiroz has been struggling to get the amendment since September. At first, he says, it sailed through the District Advisory Board, and then the planning commission approved it.
But then a complaint from a concerned neighbor derailed his request.
“I’m not planning to have . . . a nightclub,” Quiroz says. “I want to have the choice to provide whatever my customer asks for.”
Then-city Councilwoman Sharon Fearey deferred a decision. Now, Quiroz is working with new Councilwoman Janet Miller.
“I’m asking for a decision, that’s all I want,” Quiroz says.
If the City Council votes this month to reverse its deferment decision, then it could vote on the amendment in early July. But Quiroz is not sure he’ll make it until then.
“There’s been several issues trying to make this place work,” Quiroz says. The bridge construction is the most pressing one now. He says the plan is to open at least a couple of lanes in the next couple of weeks.
“If they stay longer, I don’t know if I’ll be able to survive,” he says.
The economy, of course, is hurting as well.
“You can’t really imagine how hard it is to survive nowadays,” Quiroz says.
If the rezoning isn’t approved, he says he’ll look at moving elsewhere. Quiroz has a following that’s likely to keep dining at Frida’s wherever it moves.
“I know the restaurant concept will work if I just move east or west,” he says.
But that’s not Quiroz’s first choice.
“I don’t want to give up.”