Thursday, August 23, 2007
Rod Daquioag isn’t exactly new to the theater of business ownership. He’s been operating a catering business out of his home for nearly a decade. But shortly after Daquioag decided to hang out a shingle in 2005 and open the Lumpia Hut and Grill in Oldtown Salinas, he says, he was nearly knocked over the head with problems.
It didn’t start out so bad. Early on, Salinas officials approved the architectural and engineering plans for the restaurant. The City issued permits, and Daquioag began construction. Daquioag figured it wouldn’t be long before he was cooking up barbecue, Asian and Filipino food to a busy lunch crowd, and starching white linens for fine dinner dining.
The fantasy ended there. “It was a mess right at the beginning,” he says. “The City wanted changes to the existing bathroom, even though it was already ADA compliant.” In addition, the front façade had to be reconfigured, the back entrance had to be redesigned, and new plans had to be drawn up for the location of a grease trap.
But the grease trap the City wanted Daquioag to install was too big to fit indoors. And burying it, Daquioag says, wasn’t an option. “They said no to that, too,” he says. “They said it wouldn’t fit outside, so move it in.
“It was one thing after another thing, all kinds of work that didn’t pass the City even though they said it passed at first. It’s the same problems other businesses have with Salinas.”
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Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue acknowledges the fact that getting a new business up and running in Salinas isn’t a cakewalk.
“I know there have been general concerns about how things get moved through, whether it’s timely enough and whether we’re working well enough with business owners,” Donohue says. “I think some of the concerns speak to capacity. We’re working diligently to get positions filled. We haven’t made the progress in the planning and permit arenas that I would have liked, and I realize we’re not where we need to be. But I think we’re getting better.”
To answer business concerns, the Chamber of Commerce formed a working group to evaluate the permit process. “We’re waiting for the results of the study,” Donohue says. But, he says, the City recognizes that one important element of bettering relations may be that once a permit is issued, the operative word should be “Go.”
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Daquioag’s frustration is palpable. Earlier this year, with tensions high over a long-overdue opening, squabbles with the City, disagreements over who may owe whom money, and who may or may not have been ultimately responsible for the repeated delays, Daquioag and his general contractor parted ways.
Now, under the direction of a new contractor and a new City Council that Donohue says is committed to improving its relationships with existing and prospective businesses, the Lumpia Hut and Grill may open within weeks. After sinking more than half a million dollars into the business, Daquioag says all he wants is to open the restaurant’s doors—that, and a cohesive relationship with the City.
With work still to be done and final inspections to pass, no opening date has been set.
Still, he acknowledges it may finally be his time.
“I saw the mayor at the Kiddie Kapers Parade, and I asked him to be the guest speaker at the opening,” Daquioag says. “I’m just waiting for confirmation.”
“Wow,” Donohue says, “I didn’t realize it was a formal invitation. But if it was, I accept. It will be a privilege to be there.”