Restaurant forced to cut ties to Mexican chain due to open next month in Ogunquit

Home of the future La Playa D'Ogunquit restaurant, due to open next month in Ogunquit.
Steve Einstein | York County Coast Star
Home of the future La Playa D'Ogunquit restaurant, due to open next month in Ogunquit.
Posted Nov. 22, 2013, at 10:07 a.m.

OGUNQUIT, Maine — A new Mexican eatery, La Playa D’Ogunquit, should be open by early December, one of its owners said this week.

Last week, Code Enforcement Officer Scott Heyland reported that he had determined the proposed Mexican restaurant located at the site of the former Ogunquit Beach Grill on Route 1 and the subject of local debate was not a formula restaurant, which is not allowed under the town’s ordinances. The CEO went on to say a letter of agreement had been sent to the applicant’s attorney.

Anselmo Arellano, son of co-owner Jesus Arellano and uncle of co-owner Josh Arellano, was present at the Nov. 14 public hearing and spoke on behalf of his father.

He said this week that they had received Heyland’s letter and reiterated that they never wanted to “create a problem for the town” and that the issue arose because they weren’t aware of the town’s ordinance prohibiting formula restaurants.

“It was our mistake,” he said.

As for the letter of agreement, Arellano said, “We’re going to do everything 100 percent.”

Arellano said that new paperwork has already been filed under the new restaurant name and they were planning for an early December opening.

The Pennsylvania-based El Rodeo group, founded by the Arellano family, currently has more than two dozen locations, including Portland and a location coming to Newington, N.H. According to Heyland’s conditions, though, the new Ogunquit restaurant will bear a unique name, have a different menu, its own website, advertising and do its own purchasing.

Many residents 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 that he was confident that the Arellanos’ willingness to work with the rules spoke well of how they would fit in in town.

“We gave them a list of 10 stringent requirements which if, at any time are violated, will be a code enforcement issue, and they would be at risk of closing,” he said. “They have been very responsive and conscientious of our community needs and wishes, and they have responded appropriately. We wish them success and welcome them to the community.”

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