Restaurants near schools apply for alcohol permits, only one gets approved

EL PASO, Texas - They say when you're looking to open a business, it's all about location, location, location. Does it matter where restaurants are when owners apply for alcohol permits?

City Rep. Lily Limon questioned policy exceptions at Tuesday's regular council meeting, and wanted to know why one part of the city is treated in a different manner.

This week, El Paso City Council approved a beer and wine permit for a new west side fine-dining restaurant called The Grape.

"The policy, the rule, the ordinance, is real clear. I'm not understanding why exceptions are allowed," Limon questioned.

Weeks prior, a restaurant across from Bowie High School was denied a permit. The Mexican café called La Valentina sells tortas and burritos, and has a large dining room.

Businesses within 300 feet of a school, church, daycare or public hospital have to apply for an exception from the prohibition of the sale of alcoholic beverages, as stated in the city code.

"I'm curious to understand how one part of the city is treated in a different manner than another area when the same kind of requests come forward," Limon said.

Neither restaurant is in City Rep. Limon's district, but she, District 4 Rep. Carl Robinson, and a man who lives near Piazza Escondida didn't approve of The Grape selling booze.

"We've been assured as a neighborhood that liquor would not be allowed," one nearby resident said to council members.

The Grape will be a stone's throw away from Rivera Elementary, but the developer said it will be the only restaurant in Piazza Escondida, and the owner said it's not a bar or nightclub.

The Grape's owner, Michael Laster, said he's grateful council didn't see any danger to the community approving the license, and he will only serve alcohol during dinner hours. His business's city rep, Ann Morgan Lilly, said she never heard opposition to alcohol sales in the new development until recently.

La Valentina's manager, the restaurant across from Bowie High, said he's looking into ways to get an alcohol permit approved.

The Grape is set to open within two months.

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