Last call for restaurant tripped up over liquor license ordinance?
The future of a popular Rochester restaurant hangs in the balance as the city council considers how to interpret — or how to rewrite — its liquor-license laws.
For now, the council has granted a 30-day license extension to Paseo Del Rio, formerly Dos Amigos, a 10-year-old restaurant based in the former city railroad depot at 20 Fourth St. S.E.
The restaurant, currently closed for remodeling, is set to reopen within weeks. But in investigating owner Jorge Ocegueda's application to transfer the license to his renamed business, the city discovered his July 2007 conviction for selling alcohol to a minor in a police sting operation.
The city ordinance on liquor licenses prohibits issuing a permit to an owner with an alcohol-sale conviction within the past five years — a standard that would seem to automatically flag Ocegueda, who's been involved in the restaurant operation since 2002.
That means — for Ocegueda, and possibly for numerous other Rochester restaurants and bars nabbed in similar past police operations — that the restaurant probably should not have had its liquor license renewed in any of the past several years, based on a literal reading of the city law.
Should it now?
"It's a business that's been around forever," said council President Dennis Hanson. "In terms of incidents, it has been well-monitored."
The other side of the argument, according to council member Mark Bilderback: "I think we set a very dangerous precedent by just turning our backs on it and walking away."
Ocegueda was not at Monday's council meeting. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
Dos Amigos won "Best Margarita" in Rochester Magazine's 2010 Best Restaurants contest. What's a Mexican restaurant meal without a salty margarita, or a cold cerveza? Rochester diners might find out.
But before that happens, the city council might change its laws to avoid it.
"Please," Hanson said to City Attorney Terry Adkins, "look into that ordinance and see if you can bail us out of this thing."