Former Frida’s Mexican Grill owner looks to reopen in Old Town

WICHITA — Fans of the former Frida’s Mexican Grill may not have to keep dreaming of piratas, the tasty cross between a taco and a panini, much longer. They could be a reality early next year.

Owner Mario Quiroz is looking to reopen the restaurant, this time in Old Town.

“I would like to do something there,” Quiroz says.

He’s eyeing several possibilities but doesn’t have a deal yet.

Frida’s, which closed in 2010, used to be just west of 21st and Amidon near Thai Binh.

Quiroz hasn’t decided if he’ll resurrect the Frida’s name, though he thinks it’s likely.

Fans of the former restaurant don’t have to worry about what he’ll serve, though.

“I know I will use the Frida’s menu for sure,” Quiroz says. “I had a lot of followers.

“People are still asking me . . . ‘Hey, when are you going to reopen Frida’s?’”

His answer:

“As soon as I can get in a good spot.”

You don’t say

“Location matters. Now I’m 100 percent sure that’s what I need.”

Mario Quiroz, who is closing his Frida’s Mexican Grill on West 21st Street (just east of Amidon) after business Saturday and will continue to look for what he considers a more prime spot to relocate

Frida’s Mexican Grill owner Mario Quiroz looks for new restaurant space

WICHITA — Frida’s Mexican Grill owner Mario Quiroz had planned to close his restaurant next week before moving to a new space, but he’s decided to wait at least a month.

“I’m just trying to find the right spot,” Quiroz says. “I didn’t want to stop operations in one place not having the other one ready.”

Frida’s currently is near the Thai Binh grocery store on West 21st Street, just east of Amidon.

Quiroz says the Minnesota Guys are talking to him about moving downtown.

“There’s lots of chances to relocate my business,” he says. “There’s some people who really like my concept.”

Part of the reason Quiroz wants to move is the large entertainment hall attached to the small restaurant is too big and doesn’t make enough money for him to continue operating.

Quiroz says he may have found someone to sublease that space.

When he moves, Quiroz plans to still have some sort of room for live music on a much smaller scale. He doesn’t want music to be the main focus, though.

“What I really like to do is more restaurant food.”

Frida’s Mexican Grill granted rezoning request

WICHITA — The soap opera is over.

Last month, Frida’s Mexican Grill owner Mario Quiroz told Have You Heard?, “We can make a soap opera right now,” because of struggles to get proper zoning for a special events room.

When Quiroz first opened, he planned to use the extra space for a comedy club. When plans changed, he learned he didn’t have the right zoning for dancing.

The city now has approved the zoning, and Quiroz is simply waiting for an entertainment license so customers can have parties with dancing and his extra room can be put to better use.

“Life is smiling at me a little bit,” a happy Quiroz says.

His restaurant near Thai Binh grocery on West 21st opened in April 2008 but has suffered recently because of bridge repairs in the area and the inability to fully utilize the extra room.

“It was really hard,” Quiroz says.

But he says even the struggle led to a lot of good networking for him. For instance, next week he’ll join the Crime Stoppers board.

“It’s getting better,” Quiroz says, “step by step.”

Frida’s Mexican Grill struggles with “soap opera” rezoning situation

WICHITA — Bridge repairs near 21st and Amidon aren’t all that are hurting Frida’s Mexican Grill.

The popular restaurant is struggling to get proper zoning for its special events room so customers can have parties with dancing.

“We can make a soap opera right now,” owner Mario Quiroz says of his situation.

When Quiroz, who also is an owner in La Mesa Mexican Restaurant, first opened near Thai Binh grocery on West 21st in April 2008, he planned to have a comedy club attached to his restaurant. He envisioned it as a “Loony Bin but for the Hispanic community.” He had a liquor license and a cabaret license, which was allowed in that shopping center’s community unit plan.

“I decided not to do that,” he says of the comedy, explaining that most comedians want to be paid up front. “It’s too risky.”

So Quiroz began having events in the space instead, but then he learned he needs a dance hall permit. He can’t get that without an amendment to the CUP. That’s because an establishment with a liquor license, a cabaret license and a dance hall license is considered a nightclub, and the CUP doesn’t allow a nightclub.

Quiroz has been struggling to get the amendment since September. At first, he says, it sailed through the District Advisory Board, and then the planning commission approved it.

But then a complaint from a concerned neighbor derailed his request.

“I’m not planning to have . . . a nightclub,” Quiroz says. “I want to have the choice to provide whatever my customer asks for.”

Then-city Councilwoman Sharon Fearey deferred a decision. Now, Quiroz is working with new Councilwoman Janet Miller.

“I’m asking for a decision, that’s all I want,” Quiroz says.

If the City Council votes this month to reverse its deferment decision, then it could vote on the amendment in early July. But Quiroz is not sure he’ll make it until then.

“There’s been several issues trying to make this place work,” Quiroz says. The bridge construction is the most pressing one now. He says the plan is to open at least a couple of lanes in the next couple of weeks.

“If they stay longer, I don’t know if I’ll be able to survive,” he says.

The economy, of course, is hurting as well.

“You can’t really imagine how hard it is to survive nowadays,” Quiroz says.

If the rezoning isn’t approved, he says he’ll look at moving elsewhere. Quiroz has a following that’s likely to keep dining at Frida’s wherever it moves.

“I know the restaurant concept will work if I just move east or west,” he says.

But that’s not Quiroz’s first choice.

“I don’t want to give up.”