Restaurant to fix damage, expand outdoor seating with grant funds

COURTESY PHOTO - Members of the St. Helens Economic Development Corp. Main Street Program and St. Helens City Council sit outside El Tapatio restaurant. From left to right: Jasmine Jordan, Judy Thompson, Susan Conn, Al Petersen, Destinee Ryder and Eddie Dunton.A St. Helens Mexican restaurant will get a facelift and much-needed structural repairs after being awarded $100,000 in state grant funding Tuesday, May 9.

The funds originate from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department's Main Street Revitalization Grant, a subset of the Oregon Heritage platform of state grant programs.

El Tapatio was one of 28 grant recipients. The funds will be used to fix roof damage caused by heavy winter snow and expand the restaurant's seating areas at its location on Columbia Boulevard.

Susan Baker, the restaurant's general manager, said she and owners Efren Guitron and Estela Alcazar were thrilled to get the grant because it will allow them to

not only address needed repairs, but also expand the restaurant.

"From our perspective, we were just absolutely thrilled and overjoyed that we'd be the recipients of the grant," Baker said.

In February, the trio applied for grant funding through the St. Helens Economic Development Corp. after sustaining serious roof damage during a bought of rough winter snow and ice storms in January.

The owners outlined plans to fix the roof, build a new outdoor patio area, expand the dining area by 1,400 square feet, build a tortilla-making station, create a new restroom facility, and add a decorative fountain and patio seating. Additionally, the business will be able to upgrade plumbing fixtures and install fire sprinklers inside the building.

The new square footage will allow the business to accommodate large parties and provide a venue for events, Baker explained.

"We're excited to have an opportunity to create an eating experience for the community where we can hold large events too," Baker said.

Applications for grant funding were open to all 212 businesses that lie within the main street district, explained Jasmine Jordan, the St. Helens Main Street Program Coordinator. Eight applications were submitted. Of those, four made formal presentations to SHEDCO before the final application was chosen to be submitted for state approval.

SHEDCO selected the El Tapatio project because it

met four of eight community needs outlined in the grant funding requirements, Jordan said.

The grants are awarded on a matching basis, meaning the business owner must contribute as much funding or work time that equates to the awarded dollar amount.

Jordan said the owner of El Tapatio expects the grant to cover approximately 35 percent of total project costs.

Baker said they hope to begin construction in June after design plans are finalized, but the restaurant will remain open and operational throughout the process.

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