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Fate of Parilla Steakhouse Up in the Air as Owner Mounts Outreach Campaign

By DNAinfo Staff on November 27, 2012 8:24am

 The embattled restaurant, which was emboiled in a sex scandal, is trying to clear it image as disruptive.
The embattled restaurant, which was emboiled in a sex scandal, is trying to clear it image as disruptive.
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DNAinfo/Carla Zanoni

By Jordan Davidson

Special to DNAinfo.com New York

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The future of embattled Parilla Steakhouse restaurant remains murky as its owner mounts a community outreach campaign to clear its image as a noisy, disruptive venue that was embroiled in a sex scandal earlier in the year.

Hector Santana, an independent consultant for the restaurant's owner, Gino Hernandez, was tapped after Hernandez was criticized for irresponsible business practices.

Don Manuel Hernandez, the owner's brother, enlisted the consultant in a bid to gain ownership of the restaurant from his ailing brother, but realizes the struggle will be largely winning over the public.

Santana has stressed that Don Manuel Hernandez has made improvements that will benefit the area, including soundproofing the walls, installing new ID verification machines and hiring extra security personnel.

He also said the restaurant plans to meet with residents of the apartment building above to discuss noise issues — City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez's office claims to have collected more than 400 complaints over the past few years — and it is working with the building’s landlord on a compromise regarding a vacant ground-floor apartment Gino Hernandez had used illegally.

“We invite the members of the community board to go and see,” Santana said during a CB12 licensing committee meeting, where his claims were met with skepticism from members of the community board.

The committee decided to once again table its recommendation on the corporate change application.

Rodriguez, who has advocated Parilla have its liquor license denied, recommended against approving the change in ownership “until local precinct and elected officials sit down with this restaurant to figure out how we can change the perception and reality of La Parrilla.”

The restaurant was enmeshed in a scandal last February when four detectives from the 33rd Precinct were caught drinking there while still on duty. Investigators are also looking into allegations against Gino Hernandez for sexual harassment after the February incident.

“You can tell us all about all these things you’ve done,” said CB12 member George Fernandez. “And you might have them on loan. We don’t know. Why don’t you bring paperwork of the purchases you’ve made?”  

Police Officer Jose Jimenez, one of the 33rd Precinct’s community affairs officers, said they had not yet seen the improvements promised and were opposed to the license request until the owners give the precinct’s captain a tour of the restaurant.