Fiesta Mexicana serves up expansion

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Downtown Shelbyville restaurant taking over space next door, at 616 Main St.

Fiesta Mexicana, one of Shelbyville’s most popular and enduring downtown restaurants, is in expansion mode.

The sounds of drills, hammers are constant and obvious to passersby as workers gut the space at 616 Main Street, just west of the restaurant, to expand the dining room and broaden the restaurant’s front.

That could be good news for downtown, because that particular front, which previously had been a bar, is considered an ugly metal façade that has been an eyesore for years.

Shelbyville officials, in fact, last year denied a liquor license for an applicant who wanted to open a bar in that space because, as Mayor Tom Hardesty said, “We don’t need another beer bar downtown.”

A spokesperson for Fiesta’s ownership, speaking through an interpreter, confirmed the expansion plans and said ownership hoped to be able to seat about 200 with the bigger space.

“We’re a family restaurant,” he said. “We want bigger space for families. We’re a hundred percent family business.”

He said there were no plans to expand the restaurant’s small bar area and that it wouldn’t “be a full sports bar or anything like that.”

But one issue with the expansion seems to be whether owners have the opportunity to remove and replace that ugly store front.

Their spokesperson said that he is working with Gail Reed, coordinator of the Shelby County Historic District Commission and does want to get rid of the “ugly” front, but he doesn’t know if he can. He said he is waiting to see.

“We will see if the city can help open the front,” he said. “We would like to get clear to do something.”

The historic district has approval rights for all architectural changes in city’s 200-plus-year-old core, and Reed said she would welcome such a change. But she is confused.

“They came in and talked to me – through an interpreter – about putting in a window,” she said. “I told them it had to be wood and glass, and then I gave them a COA [Certificate of Acceptance]  for the window. I haven’t heard about doing anything more.”

If owners want to broaden their replacement of the façade, they need to submit those plans to Reed.

She said she first had gotten wind of the project about a year ago when she was contacted by an intermediary but didn’t know any work was being done until Shelbyville Code Enforcement officials visited the property to check on the renovations.

“They wanted to make sure they weren’t tearing down a load-bearing wall or anything,” she said.

The spokesperson for the owners said they are replacing the floors, walls and ceilings to remake the space.

“A lot of people were asking for bigger space,” he said while seated in a corner of a dining room that is filled to capacity most evenings. “We’re just trying to get a bigger place.”

He said there was no firm date for completion but that he was hoping “to be done in the next three months.”