Controversy is on the menu again at La Placita restaurant in the MiMo District of Miami.
The city has yet again ordered the restaurant to paint over their mural of the Puerto Rican flag. José Mendín, chef and owner of La Placita, posted a picture of the violation notice on his Instagram.
"After everything that we’ve gone through, before with the flag and now with the pandemic, after getting our business back, after getting people back to their restaurants, this is what we have to deal with right now," Mendín said. "It’s very unfair."
Mendín has been down this road before. When he and his business partner, actor Julian Gil, opened the restaurant in December of 2018, they commissioned Puerto Rican artist Hector Collazo to paint the red, white and blue symbol of Puerto Rican pride on the side of their building.
The problem then began because they never got official approval from Miami's historic preservation board, which regulates the MiMo district.
After a lot of back and forth, and a petition by many supporters of the flag, city commissioners voted last year that the restaurant could keep the art. However, there was a catch in that agreement. La Placita would have to paint over their mural when a neighboring business painted over theirs. Due to the pandemic, that business next door has since closed.
“The mural at Organic Bites was taken down, thus triggering the requirement for La Placita to remove their mural, which is also nonconforming. Note that someone at the Organic Bites building has now put up another illegal mural and they have been cited by Code Compliance for that violation," a City of Miami spokesperson said in a statement.
The city also linked to the relevant City Commission resolution that triggered the requirement for La Placita to remove their mural.
According to the violation posted by Mendín, the city is threatening stiff fines of about $200 per day, and they could possibly take away the restaurant's license if they do not comply by Feb. 16. The celebrity chef says he's not giving up the fight just yet.
“I tried to bring culture to this side of town," Mendín said. "This flag has become a staple. People come here to take pictures and tourists come and bring business. There has to be a way that we can come to an agreement so that we can keep this flag, because this flag is beautiful and I don’t want to touch it."