Rose’s Grill and Bar has become an institution on the island of Caye Caulker and an internationally renowned favourite of locals and tourists seeking some authentic Belizean grilled flavor. But the grilling, which earned the thirteen year old establishment its fame, is also currently the source of its problems. The Caye Caulker Village Council says it has received numerous complaints from residents who have been affected by the smoke and it wants the owner, Edwardo Arceo, to relocate his grill to the rear of the building. And to apply a little pressure to the decision-making process, the Council has refused to renew Arceo’s liquor license which expired on January thirty-first. News Five was on the island of Caye Caulker to find out if the issue is really the smoke or if that’s just a smokescreen to cover up some good old-fashioned victimization. Here’s that story with Carla Bradley.
Edwardo Arceo, Rose’s Grill & Bar
“I established this restaurant on the eighteenth of April and that is thirteen years ago. I was first grilling for locals like chicken, pork, ribs and even wild animals and then divert three years after into tourism and I start sea food. Since then this island has become more popular into tourism because Caye Caulker only have like eight years that we have more return customers. So basically Rose’s plays a big role in tourism.”
Carla Bradley, Reporting
And a lot of that popularity, according to young business owner Edwardo Arceo, is because of the grill portion of the grill and bar. According to Chairman of the Caye Caulker Village Council Alberto Villanueva, while the establishment is renowned internationally and is a tourist favorite, Arceo’s neighbors have complained about the smoke from the grill, and that has forced them to take action.
Alberto Villanueva, Chairman, Caye Caulker Village Council
“In his case last year he was given notice that he needed to relocate his grill. So last January he had to relocate his grill that hasn’t been the case. So the new liquor license year came up and we bonafide concerns from neighbors that the smoke has been an issue in whatever direction the wind is blowing. They have asked, they have expressed their concerns; us as the local authority have taken those concerns; we’ve told him that it is an issue he is faced with and we just ask him to relocate the grill. We are in no way shutting him down and we have also served him notice that you know if he relocates the grill, he is entitled to his liquor license. We are not shutting the restaurant down, we do not have that power, he is free to serve his food and non-alcoholic beverages. This is solely a liquor license issue.”
Well it’s not really a liquor license issue, strictly speaking, since those alleged complaints have all been about the grill and not the bar. But it works if the intention is to bring some pressure to bear. The Council wants Arceo to relocate his grill. He says it’s not feasible. The Council claims that they have received numerous complaints and have an obligation to act on those complaints. Arceo says that is not true. He says the real smoke behind the fire is just political victimization.
“They are stating very clearly on the paper that I must move my grill form the front and put it to the back. The back of my restaurant is a thatched house that definitely will become a problem for fire department. In the front here, I have zinc that is not a problem for fire department and not a problem for health department as well. I know about hygiene, I know about food quality.”
“It’s based on not one complain but numerous complaints. We don’t have medical documentation for smoke inhalation or the long term effects of smoke. I don’t think there is any research in regards to that for the neighborhood or for Belize for that matter but we believe that you cannot be inconveniencing your neighbors and you know. Making money or a profit at their expense; we are looking at the well being of the entire neighborhood as well.”
“I remember when elections was going on with village councils. I went totally against Albert Villanueva and he knows that every well. This is the result because I approach the liquor license board and they all tell me the same thing, this is a personal issue. This has nothing to do with the people complaining, the neighbors itself already signed that they don’t have nothing to do with the complaining of this establishment. I have gathered more than four hundred signatures throughout the island and I make it my issue that all my neighbors around me sign it and they are right here, these are my neighbors. These are my direct neighbors.”
But to counter those claims of specific victimization, Chairman Villanueva says that Arceo is actually only one of various businesses they have targeted because of the smoke from grilling.
“We have addressed it across the board. He is the last entity, the last individual that basically has not complied. We have about ten establishments that grill in or around the streets of Caye Caulker and they have complied as well.”
So is it all about smoke or is it just a smokescreen for victimization? That depends on who you ask? For now, though, Arceo continues to operate Rose’s Grill & Bar even though his liquor license expired on January thirty-first.
Arceo has retained the services of an attorney who he said is seeking a speedy resolution to his grilling woes.