Carrie Rengers

El Vaquero Family and Friends Event Center seeks conditional use permit

The business, which means “the Cowboy,” is zoned correctly but needs a conditional use permit since it plans to have alcohol and entertainment within 300 feet of residential properties.
The business, which means “the Cowboy,” is zoned correctly but needs a conditional use permit since it plans to have alcohol and entertainment within 300 feet of residential properties. The Wichita Eagle

The new El Vaquero Family and Friends Event Center has already opened at 1320 E. Central with some art exhibits, but whether it will be allowed to be the full event center its owners want it to be remains to be seen.

“They would like to have a venue that’s family friendly but has available music, dancing, food and alcohol,” says attorney Ted Knopp, who represents owners Armando Michel, Juana Gillis and Jorge Rojas.

Michel owns Michel Drywall and Gillis will manage El Vaquero, which is between Washington and Hydraulic on Central.

The business, which means “the Cowboy,” is zoned correctly but needs a conditional use permit since it plans to have alcohol and entertainment within 300 feet of residential properties.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Commission voted to approve the permit, but the District Advisory Board voted against it. The Wichita City Council will consider the issue on Aug. 11.

For now, Knopp says the business is in limbo.

The owners can’t apply for a liquor license unless they get the permit, nor can they get an occupancy reading from the fire department until then.

“So that’s kind of where they are,” Knopp says.

Michel made concessions when speaking with the planning commission.

He agreed to close El Vaquero at 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and to stop serving liquor at midnight on Friday and Saturday and then close at 12:30 a.m.

“All of these are designed to express his desire that it really is an event center for families, not a nightclub,” Knopp says.

“This will be for all people, but it’s designed to mimic (and) resemble the plaza life, the gatherings that Mr. Michel experienced in his native Mexico and in San Antonio where families gather to enjoy time together,” he says. “That’s really what started this whole thing.”

He says the plan is to have weddings, quinceaneras, dances and art exhibits in the 6,200-square-foot space.

The mixed-used building has 5,736 square feet left to lease, with some parts of the building having frontage along Central and some with frontage on Cleveland.

Knopp says Michel had a T-shirt shop in one corner of the building that he’s now allowing others to use for educational training.

“It’s been kind of a training facility more than an open business,” Knopp says. “He’s allowing them to use all the T-shirt equipment to learn and do screen printing.”

Knopp says Michel “envisions that the activity on that location will encourage some development.”

Though Knopp says the event center could proceed without the ability to serve alcohol, he says that’s only a fallback plan.

“I’m hopeful that they’ll get their conditional use permit.”

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieRengers.

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