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Owner seeks to change restaurant perceptions

New leadership, name and other changes made at Mexican restaurant.

The El Herradura restaurant has been open for about a month, but the restaurant’s new owner said he’s afraid perceptions that customers might have about a previous restaurant at the site might be keeping people away.

Jose Diaz, manager and owner of El Herradura, said he purchased the property at 1236 Upper Valley Pike earlier this year. The site was previously known as the Mi Jalapeno Mexican Restaurant, but that closed after several problems, including a former server at the restaurant who was indicted in late August related to drug charges, as well as health code violations. The restaurant has been open as El Herradura since November.

Diaz said those issues have been resolved, and the restaurant has a new name and owner. But it’s been difficult to bring customers back to the site.

“It’s hard because a lot of people think it’s the same owners and the same management, and it’s not,” said Diaz, who’s been in the restaurant business for close to a decade. “I just want people to know it’s not the same.”

In addition to a facelift, Diaz said the restaurant has resolved issues with the Clark County Combined Health District since he took over. While many of the menu items between the two restaurants are similar, Diaz said the recipes have been tweaked as well.

Diaz said he began working at El Toro when he was 17, and has been involved in the restaurant business for about 8 years. To help bring back customers, he said he’s bringing in Mariachi bands on some nights and offering lunch and drink specials.

Inspections from the Clark County Combined Health District initially showed several violations when the site was still Mi Jalapeno, including roaches and other unsanitary conditions. But inspectors have visited the restaurant at least nine times sine then, and those issues have been resolved, said Anita Biles, the health district’s Safe Communities Coordinator.

“They have done everything they need to,” Biles said. “They’re fine.”

Sandra Venavidez, whose mother Asucena previously owned Mi Jalapeno, said it became too much of a burden to keep the restaurant open. Business was already slow, and when Diaz showed interest in the restaurant, her family decided to sell, Sandra Venavidez said.

The Clark County Auditor’s website still lists Umberto and Asucena Vanavidez as the owners, but staff at the auditor’s office said property transfers can take time before they are processed.

Along with the health inspections, Pedro Arriaga-Reyes, a former server at Mi Jalapeno, was indicted by a Clark County Grand Jury last year on allegations that he was supplying cocaine and heroin to drug traffickers in and around Springfield. Law enforcement executed a search warrant at Mi Jalapeno, along with 10 other locations, but no drugs were found at the restaurant.

Sandra Venavidez said her family was unaware of any drug activity and said the incident was stressful for her mother. She said she hopes the restaurant’s new owners have better luck at the location.

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