Damakant Jayshi

The Public Health and Safety Committee on Monday approved Jalapeños Mexican Restaurant and Bar’s request for a waiver to renew the establishment’s liquor license, despite owing a debt to the city.

But the owner is required to appear before the Wausau Public Health and Safety Committee next month to respond to a formal expression of concern for violations cited by the Wausau Police Department.

The committee granted a waiver after Pedro Pineda committed to paying the remainder of his debt within six months. Jalapeños so far paid $3,000 of the $10,000 in delinquent personal property taxes and penalties owed from 2020 and 2021, according to city documents. According to Deputy Clerk Mary Goede’s July 15 memo, Jalapeños was given a 60-day provisional license to continue doing business, allowing time for the owner to appear before the committee to discuss the financial issue.

The waiver can be granted under “extraordinary financial hardship,” which the Public Health and Safety Committee cited in this instance. The debt must be paid in its entirety by the time of the next renewal, June 30 next year.

But the increase in liquor license violations is prompting concerns Pineda will be required to address. Police report several recent violations by the restaurant, including selling liquor to an underage patron on June 19 and operating beyond closing hours. Another violation involved a patron with an open container of alcohol outside the building.

As a result, police issued 100 demerit points for the June violations – in addition to the 75 demerit points issued for similar violations in January.

Pineda took full responsibility for the violations and said he would ensure they will not happen again. Understaffing led to some issues, Pineda said, adding that he is willing to participate in additional training from the WPD.

After the grant of the waiver, the committee discussed the violations and moved forward with a formal expression of concern.

Chair of the committee, Lisa Rasmussen, said it was a “chicken and egg conundrum” since establishments cannot pay if they do not remain open and they cannot operate if their license is not renewed.

Committee member and Alder from Dist. 10 Lou Larson said he was torn between allowing the restaurant, which has been operating for years downtown, to operate and ignoring repeat violations.

Rasmussen said committee members could issue a formal expression of concern and if violations continued, they could take additional steps. She cited examples of other bars that had committed similar violations but improved after discussing options with the committee and law enforcement.

Assistant City Attorney Nathan Miller suggested that the formal expression was needed since other violators would take notice of the committee’s decision. The members then agreed to do so.