Blue Agave, the Mexican restaurant that opened Downtown just before Christmas 2017, and has had problems with the city, is closing.
The restaurant, 117 S. Butler St., in the former Bayou, will have its last day on Dec. 12.
Co-owner Jose Mata said he's sad to have to close. "We're in love with that location," he said.
"We did our best, but parking was a big situation," Mata said. "That's a lot of the feedback that we got from our customers."
Mata also said they opened as a "restaurant and lounge," and that even though they were grandfathered in for an entertainment license, the city put restrictions on amplified live music and DJs.
He and his partner also encountered red tape when trying to open a sidewalk patio, he said. "It's just little things that affected my business."
Mata said neighbors often called the police about noise. "I felt like we were never given the opportunity to expand and be what we wanted it to be."
Downtown Ald. Mike Verveer, who sits on the city's Alcohol License Review Committee, said after neighborhood meetings, Blue Agave was granted a license with conditions.
"In my estimation, and I said this to them then, the problem isn't them, the problem is location," Verveer said, noting that although the restaurant is across from a GEF state office building, it's still in the residential First Settlement neighborhood.
"If they were only located a block closer to the Capitol they wouldn't be having these concerns," he said. "If they were on King Street or East Main Street, we wouldn't be having these conversations."
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Plus, Verveer said, Blue Agave's owners did everything they could to skirt the entertainment license, saying they didn't have DJs, when they did.
A shooting outside the restaurant a year ago involving Blue Agave customers led to the end of entertainment there, Verveer said.
Mata opened the restaurant with his fiancée, Sandra Alamilla Lopez, and her brother, Fabian Alamilla, took over her ownership stake last year.
Mata said he and Alamilla could have done better with a full entertainment license and patio, and notes that the Bayou had both. Alamilla served as bar manager for the Bayou for six years, Mata said.
Still, he said, he hates to complain about the city that he loves.
He said he's going to keep looking for another location that has better parking.
Mata grew up in Oshkosh, and came to Madison when he finished high school. His family is from San Jose de la Paz in Jalisco, Mexico, a state famous for its tequila. And that's why he chose the name Blue Agave, the plant from which tequila is distilled.
Mata said his father, who died four years ago, owned a Mexican restaurant in Oshkosh called Durango's. He said he opened Blue Agave in honor of his father, whose dream it was to have a restaurant in Downtown Madison.
He said he was proud of the great reviews Blue Agave got on Facebook and Google.
"There are a lot of people who were there with us from the beginning to the end that supported us, that became family to us," Mata said.
Ultimately, though, business has sometimes been slow, he said. "It's sad. It breaks our heart to close."
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