VALPARAISO | The opening of the second Mexican restaurant in the downtown moved another step closer to reality Monday with the council approving a full-service liquor license.
Casa Del Mar, which would occupy about 4,000 square feet on the first floor of the former Porter County Jail at 157 Franklin St., received a unanimous recommendation to be given the ninth of the 10 special downtown historic district licenses created several years ago by the Legislature.
The application also was unanimously recommended by the city's Downtown Alcohol Beverage Licensing Committee at two meetings and now needs only final approval by the state's Alcohol Beverage Commission. The city committee voted on it in September and then again in October after receiving objections from Denny Follis, one of the owners of Margarita's Bar and Grill on Lincolnway downtown.
Among Follis' objections was the $200,000 forgivable loan given Casa Del Mar owner George Dovellos for improvements in the public right of way. Dovellos plans to spend that much on the sidewalks, decorative lighting, railings and other improvements around the former jail. Another $400,000 or so will be spent on remodeling the restaurant space as part of the overall $2 million renovation of the four-story building.
Bret Dodd, senior project manager with DLZ, said the new restaurant would differ from Margarita's by having a larger seafood menu. It would use only fresh meats and vegetables, most grown locally. The other unique aspect will be the combination of the restaurant with the home decor center, which will occupy at least two floors of the jail.
The home decor center would have accoutrements for the home as well as jewelry and other items designed to appeal to women shoppers. The restaurant would be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., later on nights special events are being held downtown. Outdoor seating would be in the rear of the building. A typical meal would cost about $16, Dodd said.