Local Cantina restaurant is now open on East First Street in downtown Dayton
Photo: Mark Fisher
Photo: Mark Fisher

JUST IN: Dayton restaurant to reopen without alcohol while it awaits license approval

Downtown eatery to serve food, non-alcoholic beverages so employees can keep jobs

***UPDATE (Jan. 15, 2020)***

The Local Cantina restaurant in downtown Dayton will reopen this Friday, Jan. 17, and plans to serve food and non-alcoholic beverages daily while it awaits a decision on its application to serve alcohol, according to a spokeswoman for the Mexican restaurant chain.

The restaurant at 503 E. First St. adjacent to Fifth Third Field served customers its full menu — including wine, beer and spirits — for its first three weeks until shutting down Jan. 8 because it did not yet have its liquor license. 

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“To ensure stability in employment for all our associates, we will be opening Friday, the 17th, 11 a.m to 9 p.m., to serve food, (and) will be maintaining these hours daily moving forward,” Leanna McKenney Heath, operations and marketing manager for the Columbus-based chain, told this news outlet in an email Tuesday night.

“Your requests have been heard ...” the restaurant told followers Tuesday night on its Facebook page. “While we won’t be able to serve you any delicious margaritas or craft beers until we hear back from the powers (that) be, we can still serve up ALL the delicious tacos. Don’t let this stop you from trying our delicious, fresh prepped food!”

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Last week, Heath said the restaurant suspended operations “when the company realized there was a miscommunication” with the liquor license. A spokesman for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control said the restaurant submitted its application for a full liquor license on Dec. 10, and the process of obtaining such a license generally takes 10 to 12 weeks. 

Local Cantina opened Dec. 20. 

*** ORIGINAL STORY (Jan. 10, 2020)***

The new “Local Cantina” restaurant in downtown Dayton that served customers for three weeks until closing temporarily on Wednesday does not yet have its liquor license and will remain closed until it obtains one, state officials and a spokeswoman for the restaurant said Friday Jan. 10.

Local Cantina Water Street, which started serving in “soft-opening” mode Dec. 20 at 503 E. First St., told its customers on its Facebook page Wednesday that it would reopen Friday, but callers to the restaurant were being told early Friday afternoon that the restaurant would not reopen until next week.

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But Ohio Division of Liquor Control officials said the liquor-license application process will last well beyond next week.

Leanna McKenney Heath, operations and marketing manager for the Columbus-based chain that operates nine restaurants in central Ohio, told this news outlet this afternoon that a “miscommunication” led to the temporary closure. 

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“When the company realized there was a miscommunication with the license, we closed our doors immediately,” Heath said. “We will re-open for business as soon as we have met the requirements of the city and state. We look forward to working with the city to clear up this mistake and to open the doors as soon as possible.”

“Our timetable is dependent on communication with the city and state, and we are working diligently with the proper departments. Currently, we are working to make arrangements with all our associates to ensure employment” during the closure, Heath said.

Local Cantina restaurant is now open on East First Street in downtown Dayton
Photo: Mark Fisher

A spokesman for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control said Local Cantina Dayton applied for its liquor license on Dec. 10, and that application “is in process. It takes approximately 10 to 12 weeks to go through the full application process.”

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“Notices must be sent to the local legislative authority, local law enforcement, and any public institution within 500 feet to allow those entities an opportunity to object to the new permit and request a hearing. They have 30 days to reply.”

 

In the case of Local Cantina, “there are several items pending, including approval by local authorities required. The local authorities have requested an extension of time to respond whether or not they have an objection until February,” the liquor-control agency’s spokesman said. 

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Any objections to the granting of the license must be reviewed by division officials, so the spokesman could offer no projected timetable on when the restaurant’s liquor license might be granted.

It was not immediately clear whether Local  Cantina would consider opening and serving only food and non-alcoholic drinks while it awaited its liquor-license approval. A follow-up message sent to Heath Friday afternoon was not immediately returned.

Local Cantina restaurant is now open on East First Street in downtown Dayton
Photo: Mark Fisher

An anonymous tip that the restaurant was serving alcohol without a license resulted in two officers with the Ohio Investigative Unit, a division of the Ohio Highway Patrol that handles liquor-permit-related complaints, to pay a visit to the restaurant on Thursday, according to Adam Johnson, agent in charge of the OIU’s Cincinnati district, which includes Dayton.

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The agents found the restaurant closed, but spoke to a manager there who explained that a miscommunication between corporate officials and restaurant employees led those at the restaurant to believe the liquor license had been obtained, and they could serve alcohol, Johnson said.

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No enforcement action was taken because the agents did not witness any illegal activity, Johnson said.

The Dayton location adjacent to Fifth Third Field is Local Cantina’s first outside of central Ohio.

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