LYNWOOD | The 16,500-square-foot facility that formerly housed Villa de Bruno has been reborn and reopened as a palace, Dream Palace.
In October, the Luis Licea family bought the building that had been vacant since it closed in January 2010 after operating 30 years as a restaurant and banquet hall.
The Liceas, who own Fiesta Palace banquet hall in Merrillville, believed they wanted to keep the palace connection when naming their new venture, said Maribel Licea-Ibarra.
“And purchasing Villa de Bruno was our dream come true,” she said. “It’s also a dream for the people getting married to have a really beautiful place for the event.”
Licea-Ibarra is co-manager of the facility along with her brother, Luis Licea Jr. The siblings are two of the four children of the Luis and Maria Licea, who own Angelical Banquets Inc. Another sister, Nancy Licea, manages Fiesta Palace, while the third, Alexandra Licea, is a trained chef who works with two other chefs in Dream Palace’s kitchen.
The family patriarch began his career in the food service business more than 20 years ago when he opened El Michoacano, a small restaurant in East Chicago’s Harbor neighborhood. After several years renting a hall to hold dances featuring area bands, Luis Licea bought the building adjacent to his restaurant; The site became his first banquet hall, Fiesta Palace 1.
He closed the restaurant in 2002 when the family decided banquet business was a “better” option. The opened the Merrillville location, then called Fiesta Palace 2, at the same time
“It (a banquet) doesn’t take so much running as a restaurant, and it’s less, much less stressful,” Licea-Ibarra said. “We really like doing private parties.”
The Hobart couple sold their East Chicago banquet hall in 2011, and found the location in Lynwood during the same period.
“More and more people wanted to rent the (East Chicago) hall without catering, so we decided it was better to sell and find another location,” Licea-Ibarra said. “We wanted one on the (Indiana/Illinois) border because we were getting a lot of business from Illinois customers. We had always had the idea of getting closer to Illinois.”
Plus the Lynwood location is large enough to hold 700 guests, twice the amount as in their Merrillville hall.
Although the Liceas had hoped to open the new facility soon after its purchase, they quickly learned that wouldn’t be possible.
Since buying the facility for $550,000 using a Small Business Administration loan and funds from the sale of their East Chicago hall, the Liceas have spent $250,000 on the new sites renovation. The work includes installing a new roof and air conditioning units plus remodeling the entire interior with new carpeting and all new kitchen equipment.
“We’ve changed everything but the beautiful (Swarovski crystal) chandeliers,” Licea-Ibarra said.
The facility caters to both Latin and American cultures with one chef specializing in Mexican cuisine and the other two preparing American dishes.
“When we began in banquet business the majority of the banquets were Mexican, but now it’s half and half,” Licea-Ibarra said. “We cater is everyone… It’s 70 percent wedding, 20 percent Quinceaneras and the rest a bit of everything.”
The facility held two banquets even before its official opening in mid-July.
“Some people waited for six months for us to open,” Licea-Ibarra said. ”They hadn’t even seen it, but they had parties with us in the past. I showed them photos and told them how we were going to remodel. I’m surprised they waited. They really trusted us.”
She and her family like both working together and working in the catering business.
“We enjoy it a lot,” Licea-Ibarra said, “It really makes me happy to see brides come in and they really appreciate all the work we put into it. We’re able to be with people when they’re at their happiest moments and we help make their happiest day as special as possible. What could be better?”