Ogunquit forces new Mexican restaurant to drop identifying connections to chain

Posted Nov. 15, 2013, at 12:49 p.m.

OGUNQUIT, Maine — The town will allow a Mexican restaurant to open on Main Street despite public protest, but it will set strict guidelines before it is fully approved, officials said Tuesday.

Speaking at the Tuesday night board of selectmen meeting, Code Enforcement Officer Scott Heyland reported that “after lengthy discussions with the town’s attorney and making some evaluations of the proposal, I’ve determined that [the proposed restaurant] is not a formula restaurant, so we created a letter of agreement that has been sent off to the applicant’s attorney for review… that letter pretty much solidifies everything that [the restaurant owners] proposed here at this podium.”

The Pennsylvania-based El Rodeo group, which has proposed the new restaurant, currently has more than two dozen locations, including Portland and a location coming to Newington, N.H.

At an Oct. 29 meeting, Josh Arellano, who would be the co-owner and manager of the new restaurant, described plans for a family restaurant that would close at 11 p.m. Arellano said he has a two-year history in the restaurant business and plans to move to Ogunquit if the restaurant opens.

Many residents have expressed concern that the town’s Formula Restaurant Ordinance, put in place in 2005, prohibits restaurants like the one proposed. An Oct. 29 public hearing drew dozens of residents, with 16 residents speaking passionately about a desire to maintain Ogunquit’s character and with concern that a chain restaurant could damage that.

Town Manager Tom Fortier said Tuesday night that Heyland addressed some of those concerns with Arellano.

“The restaurant will be given its own name,” he said, “El Rodeo will not be included as part of that name. The restaurant will have its own unique menu and food preparation; the exterior and interior design and signage will be unique to Ogunquit and will not resemble any design or signage of any El Rodeo restaurant. The restaurant will not be included in any web-site or jointly advertised with any El Rodeo restaurant; all advertising will be unique to the Ogunquit restaurant; [it] will not use any logo in common with any El Rodeo restaurant and will have no commissary or joint purchase agreement with any El Rodeo restaurant.”

The restrictions will also include employee uniforms being unique to Ogunquit as well as the restaurant’s owners being prohibited from using the same name as the restaurant in Ogunquit at another restaurant. Further details will be made public once the final terms are agreed upon, Fortier said.

Selectmen John Daley and David Barton said they disagreed with Heyland’s findings that the restaurant in question was not a formula restaurant.

In other board news, the ongoing disagreement between the York County Commissioners and the York County Budget Committee was again before the board. Barton, who serves as Ogunquit’s representative on the county’s Budget Committee, requested the town join 19 other York County towns in supporting that committee’s legal expenses to resolve the fundamental control issues between the committee and the county commissioners. The motion for Ogunquit to support the county Budget Committee passed in a 3-1-1 vote with Selectman Bob Winn voting against the motion and Barton abstaining.

The resignation letter from Judith Yates, who wrote of her intentions to retire after 30 years as town treasurer, was read aloud by Fortier.

In other business, Winn announced a meeting to form a Beach Erosion Initiative ad hoc committee. All those interested in being a part of this initiative and work with professional advisors to gather information and seek solutions to deal with erosion issues at Ogunquit Beach should attend a meeting at 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18 at the Dunaway Center.

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