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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Senor Carlos reopens in Salem

Monday, April 25, 2011

The parking lot at Skyvue Shopping Center was filled with customers who came out for the re-opening of Seņor Carlos Mexican Restaurant on Thursday, April 14.
Nearly six months after the murder of an employee led to its closing, Salem's Senior Carlos Restaurant reopened on Thursday, April 14.

"I have missed it and I'm hungry," said a woman who came in by herself and excitedly waited for her food. She declined to give her name saying "some of her friends may not approve" of her eating at the restaurant.

The big question about the reopening is whether enough Senior Carlos customers will return, to allow the restaurant to be successful.

Some in the community say they will not eat in a restaurant where someone was killed.

Senior Carlos opened last summer in a long vacant restaurant space in the Sky Vue Shopping Center on Highway 62-412. It appeared to be doing well, with a strong following of regulars.

But the Oct. 25, 2010 discovery of a body in Izard County was identified as 31-year-old Jesus Meza, a waiter and part owner of the Salem Senior Carlos Restaurant.

Arkansas State Police and other law enforcement agencies converged on Salem and, by the end of the day, restaurant manager Pablo Gonzalez, 41, and kitchen worker, Diego Villonueva, 19, were arrested for murdering Meza at the restaurant on Oct. 24, 2010.

Last November, restaurant owner Carlos Aguilar told The News that he and his staff had been too upset by the murder of their friend, Meza, to operate the restaurant.

Aguilar said, however, he intended to reopen in mid-November "for two or three weeks" to see whether customers would return.

While the restaurant did not reopen then, a banner went up recently announcing the April 14 reopening.

On April 13, the Arkansas Department of Health inspected the restaurant.

In his General Sanitation Inspection report, Inspector Jeff Jackson noted coolers and refrigerators were at proper temperatures and "all surfaces of kitchen have been sanitized with strong bleach solution, all utensils have been sanitized with strong bleach solution and run through the dishwasher."

The only short coming noted was the need to provide paper towels in the employee restroom.

According to the report, "Facility meets code at time of inspection-permission to operate given."

Early public response to the reopening was good.

Before noon on the 14th, the dining room was nearly filled with customers.

As waiters busily took orders, other customers waited at the front of the restaurant for carry out orders.

At the cash register, planters from the Salem Flower Shop and Tri-County Medical Supply welcomed Senior Carlos' return to business.

A Leslie Drugs employee who waited for a large carry out order said, "We saw the sign that they were reopening and have been looking forward to it. We enjoy eating here and I think the restaurant is good for Salem."

"We have been very pleased with the business we have received and the kindness of our customers," said Senior Carlos' Manager Elenilson Lopez.

While the restaurant gears back up, Gonzalez and Villonueva remain in the Izard County Detention Center awaiting trial on Capital Murder Charges.

Villonueva's trial is scheduled to begin June 21, while Gonzalez's trial is set for Sept. 13.

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