Sophie Bolich

Council Denies License For Seafood Restaurant

El Paraiso Restaurant Bar will not open on the South Side.

By - Apr 2nd, 2024 06:25 pm
Campbell's Irish Pub, 4068 S. Howell Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Campbell’s Irish Pub, 4068 S. Howell Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Back in December, El Paraíso Restaurant Bar was preparing to open at 4068 S. Howell Ave., at the former Campbell’s Irish Pub, with plans to bring fresh seafood and beverages to the Tippecanoe neighborhood.

But neighbors worried that the business would encourage more drinking like fish than eating them, prompting the Milwaukee Common Council to deny the establishment’s liquor license.

“My objections aren’t necessarily to a business being there, it’s to what they’ve proposed, which is more of a nightclub than a restaurant,” said Kristine Kierzek, who testified in opposition to the business at a March 5 Licenses Committee hearing. “If it were a cafe, I might not have the same concerns.”

Two additional neighbors, Susan Bowser and Mike Greenmeier, expressed similar worries over the nature of the business, also pointing to parking, noise and late-night activity as sources of concern.

“This is a solid, quiet residential neighborhood,” Bowser said. “To have a bar there that’s open until 2 a.m. six days a week … the neighborhood just does not support that.”

All three witnesses said they’d be more comfortable with a different type of business, such as a restaurant or nail salon, in the building.

Alderman Scott Spiker told the committee that he previously hosted a community meeting at the site of the proposed restaurant and bar, where he received a tour of the remodeled space.

“They got in the building, knocked down a bunch of walls and didn’t put in a kitchen,” he said. “It’s clear that they won’t be able to serve anything but cold food, so it’s not going to be a restaurant with a bar option, it would be a large bar.”

The alderman added that the applicants are “super nice people” and said he has “every belief” that the business would be successful, but can’t support the license due to the proximity of neighbors’ homes.

“Something of this size will definitely have a detrimental impact,” he said, adding that he’d be happy to see the business open in a commercial area near the airport, but that the neighborhood isn’t the right fit.

“I have no doubt we’d be back here in a year with all sorts of problems.”

Speaking through an interpreter, co-owner Ma Guadalupe Cabral Villarreal told the committee that the business intends to operate as a bar and restaurant, not a club. “We will be able to offer a wide variety of cold foods,” she said, ticking off menu items including ceviche, shrimp and other forms of fish.

She added that she is amenable to reduced hours of operation and, at the suggestion of neighbors, withdrew her license application for live music. She also assured neighbors that noise from the bar would never travel beyond the walls of the building.

But Spiker doubled down on his decision to recommend denial based on aldermanic and neighborhood testimony. Alderman Mark Chambers made the motion for denial. There were no objections.

The full council voted unanimously in favor of the decision on March 19.

The building has a long history as a tavern going back to 1928, most recently as Campbell’s Irish Pub and before that known as Packy’s Pub. Once featured on the TV show “Bar Rescue,” the tavern shut down in April of 2022 — five years after the property was listed for sale.

Hector Espinoza, registered agent for Guavas Homes LLC, is the building owner. He uses an adjacent garage to house his contracting business. At this time, no further plans for the building have been publicized.

Villarreal planned to operate the restaurant in partnership with her son, Adolfo Pasillas. She also co-owns an existing Milwaukee restaurant, La Playa Mariscos y Bar, which opened last spring at 721 S. Cesar E Chavez Dr.

Villarreal did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

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Categories: Food & Drink

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