PATERSON, NJ - El Mexicano Restaurant will open their doors to the community on July 17 but margaritas and fajitas won’t be the only items on the menu. Instead, following an agreement made at the July 1 meeting of the Paterson City Council, the gathering will be an opportunity for the restaurant’s owners and residents in the surrounding community to discuss how the local business can be a better neighbor.

With El Mexicano’s liquor license up for renewal at the meeting resident Karina Minauro, with two of her neighbors at her side, stood at the microphone expressing concern for the quality of life that they believe is negatively impacted, not by the restaurant itself, but by the patrons that often take to the streets after closing time, causing disturbances, violence, and littering.

“We are not trying to stop them from doing business,” Minauro assured. “We are trying to make them more responsible.” 

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Minauro continued that their hope was to see owner Jorge Mejia add security and do more to pick up trash left behind by his customers. “If we can work together,” Minauro added, again indicating the resident’s willingness in partnering with the business so that everyone’s needs can be met.

Acknowledging that Mauro was in the audience, Council President Martiza Davila offered her preference to give the longtime business owner the “benefit of the doubt.”

“We have to hear the resident’s concerns,” Davila said, adding that while it was not anyone’s intention to “come at” him there was clearly a benefit to be had by the business and area residents having a relationship so that they can “speak through the problems.”

Showing himself to be in less of a mood to let the business off quite so easily was 6th Ward Councilman Al Abdelaziz whose constituency includes those living around El Mexicano. First highlighting his concern that the application was being considered at the body’s reorganization meeting, and, therefore, in the middle of the day when members of the public would be more likely to have difficulty attending, the fierce defender of a positive quality of life lamented that if the application were approved an entire year would have to pass before strong action could be taken. 

“I am not against the business but this is bad practice,” Abdelaziz said clarifying that he was not withdrawing his amendment to only make the license for 90 days, instead of the standard 365. Rather, he wanted the record to reflect that despite his efforts his proposal for compromise was rejected by his colleagues. 

With the concerns of the public heard, an agreement to have a meeting at a later date, and the licenses renewed, Minauro was asked if she was happy with the outcome.

“For now,” she offered, heading towards Abdelaziz’s city office to continue the conversation with he and Mauro.

“As long as the owners are willing to cooperate and have good intentions,” Mauro said in a message to TAPinto Paterson, “this could be the solution that my neighbors and I have been waiting for for a long time.”

 

story edited from original version to reflect new meeting date. 

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