Dirty Dining: State shut down Margarita Mexican on Davis Islands but new owners promise changes

TAMPA - It's an old restaurant location with a new name, new owner and new management. Estela's Mexican Restaurant used to take up real estate for years on Davis Islands at 209 E Davis Blvd. in Tampa.

That is until a bay area plastic surgeon, Dr. Jamie Perez and his sister Monica Veliz took over and renamed it Margarita Mexican Restaurant. And they are now spending a lot of money to give the place a major facelift. But both did not know how serious the issues were behind the kitchen door.

On July 25, state inspectors shut down Margarita Mexican Restaurant for almost 24 hours after finding live and dead roaches on shelves, under the prep table, near the reach in cooler, dish machine, stove and steam table.  

Temperature violations were also documented in July inside the steam table with refried beans and yellow rice not held at 135 degrees or warmer. And it wasn't the first time high priority violations were found. In May inspectors discovered refried beans at an improper temperature and raw poultry stored over ready to eat vegetables, a cross contamination issue.

ABC Action News anchor Wendy Ryan spoke to Perez over the phone. He explained that after buying the restaurant in May, he's been working hard to turn the place around. He also said his sister, Veliz, is running the restaurant day to day. They've already spent a great deal of money buying new kitchen equipment, remodeling the bar, putting in a new ceiling, and painting the facility.

Perez wants the public to know that he's not making excuses for what happened but they will change how things are done in the future. And Veliz issued a written statement below:

Margaritas Mexican Restaurant
209 E. Davis Blvd.
Tampa, FL  33606
August 2, 2013

Dear Ms. Ryan,

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the many changes that are currently happening at Margaritas Mexican Restaurant on Davis Island.  My brother, Jaime Perez has told me that you contacted him regarding the situation at the restaurant.  I want to inform you that I am the own and manager of the restaurant and am solely responsible for any issues that arise there.  My brother was the financial warrantor of the restaurant, however, he is not responsible for management of Margaritas Mexican Restaurant.  Please address any future correspondence to me, Monica Velez.

As you know, I recently bought the Mexican restaurant  in Tampa.  As long-time Davis Island residents ourselves, and patrons of the previous Mexican restaurant at our location, we were continually disappointed with the decreasing quality of food, cleanliness, and service we experienced there.  

Thus, when the opportunity to buy the restaurant on Davis Island presented itself, my daughter and I took the plunge, despite having no previous restaurant experience.  Our goal was and is to provide fresh, tasty food and top-shelf drinks at a reasonable price, all served in a fun, clean, family-friendly environment.  Margaritas Mexican Restaurant is truly a family-owned and family-ran restaurant.  I want our family, and our patrons' families, to enjoy every visit and each meal they have at Margaritas Mexican Restaurant and to feel confident in their dining choice.

Because of our commitment to family and recent long days spent renovating and remodeling Margaritas Mexican Restaurant, I was just as surprised and disappointed as you when we were told of the sanction.  Immediately upon learning of the infraction, I closed the restaurant and spent that day working harder than ever to clean every nook and cranny, apply fresh paint, redo the roof, remove old ceiling tiles, and install ceiling fans and new lighting, just to name a few.  I have since hired a team of experienced professionals to manage, inspect, and approve my many restaurant-improvement projects.  


Monica Veliz  
Owner Margaritas Mexican Restaurant


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