In hopes of fostering a dialogue between residents and potential new businesses, 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack, staffer Elizabeth Gomez, and Bucktown Community Organization President Eva Bergant hosted a meeting earlier this evening with Cesar Castellanos, owner of Cesar’s Margaritas. Mr. Castellanos plans to open a third location in Bucktown, in the long vacated former Dairy Queen space at 1649 N. Damen.
Accompanied by his lawyer, his wife, and newborn baby, Castellanos, a Mexico City native who opened his first restaurant in 1990, at Clark and Belmont, and plans to bring an estimated 35-40 jobs to the neighborhood, answered questions and replied to constructive-bordering-on-rude feedback from approx. 45 Bucktown residents, most of whom live near the former Dairy Queen space and seemed understandably annoyed by the possibility of– as one Bucktowner more or less put it– looking out her bedroom window, across the alley from the proposed restaurant, and seeing 20-somethings drinking margaritas on Cesar’s second floor patio.
Among the litany of concerns expressed by residents were “hammered 20-somethings,” “public intoxication,” “excessive noise” “public safety,” and the presence of Cesar’s Margaritas “adding to an already drunken population.”
According to Mr. Castellanos, Cesar’s has a restaurant license and not a tavern license, and it will be closed by 11PM or Midnight, even on weekends. There will be no roof deck, no live music, or outdoor speakers. (Pictured is Cesar’s on Clark, just south of Belmont).
In response to a question about changing his marketing- perhaps highlighting Mexican food over margaritas- Castellanos said that yes, he’d be open to changing his marketing plan. He shared, while staring at the somewhat sullen and apparently margarita averse (or just “not-in-our-backyard”) crowd, “…I feel like [you're all treating me like] a criminal.”
“It is what it is,” said resident Brandon Antoniewicz after the meeting, adding, “We live in a dense city. I wanted to see if it’s [Cesar's] a done deal… I am more concerned about a chain restaurant [moving into the space] than a family-owned restaurant [like Cesar's].”
Registered voters living within 250 feet of the proposed establishment at 1649 N. Damen should have gotten a notice in the mail, Gomez noted. She said that those folks can write a letter to the city’s Dept. of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection if they oppose or support the proposed business. Thus far, 10 letters have been received.
While Castellano’s lease is contingent upon receiving a liquor license, once or if said license is obtained, residents living within 500-ft of the proposed (and tentatively named) Cesar’s Sinful Margaritas can write a letter to request a community meeting, explained Ald. Waguespack shortly before the meeting adjourned.