As we forge ahead with Locos Grill & Burritos in Gorgona, I thought it would be good to give you guys an update on Paco’s in La Chorrera.
I’ve been hesitant to write about the recent events that we’ve been through at Paco’s until I know what the outcome will be. However, since I get lots of emails from my readers (yay!) about stopping in while exploring Panama or expats in the area grabbing a bite with us, I didn’t want anyone to stop by while we’re on hiatus…even though it’s happened already.
So here’s what’s going on…sugar coated and with sprinkles (i.e. no names)!
Back in February, we started doing nightly events; movies, karaoke, live music, etc. We let the neighbor know to talk to us if it was too noisy for them so we could build a sound barrier. They let us know they would like us to build the sound barrier a couple weeks later, the beginning of March. We built it and told them that if it didn’t kill the sound enough, we would make it better.
We left for Costa Rica for three days towards the end of March and upon our arrival back to Chorrera, we immediately went to Paco’s. As we pulled up, so did a whole bunch of police. This was especially awesome since we had just spent 18 hours on a bus. The neighbors had called in a noise complaint. We went to talk to the neighbors and asked them why they didn’t let us, or our general manager, know the sound was bothering them so we could make the sound barrier better.
They wouldn’t talk to us. I don’t know what happened or why, but every day the neighbor started calling in noise complaints…even when we were closed. One time we had an acoustic group play and as the neighbor saw the group unloading their equipment, the noise complaint was called in. The police came while the group was eating dinner…their equipment wasn’t even set up yet!
The frustration of the police was growing. This neighbor was keeping them from protecting the city from real crimes that were happening, but they told us that they had to respond to the complaints by law.
Police interrupting the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night dinner rush was becoming a regular thing. It was very frustrating and rumors started circulating around Chorrera that we were selling drugs and laundering the money through Paco’s. A majority of our clientele was doctors, lawyers, and other professionals in the area and they remained loyal to Paco’s despite the rumors. The mayor and his entourage would even hold their monthly political meetings at our restaurant! They would let us know what the rumors were and said how terrible the gossip was since there had never been another place in Chorrera like ours.
In May, the neighbor had called a local news channel to do a story about Paco’s. The story ran on a Sunday morning stating that we were operating illegally…without an operations permit. When we heard about this broadcast from one of our employees, we contacted the MICI (the agency that issues operating permits). Our permit was cancelled. How or why, we didn’t know.
At this point we contacted an attorney. He found out that our neighbor had been working for the MICI for the past 20 years and she had cancelled our permit, called the news agency, and then told them a very damaging story about us across live television. We filed a complaint with the MICI.
A few nights later, a group of 16 police officers and agents from 3 different government agencies came to Paco’s in the middle of a Friday night dinner rush to shut us down. Fortunately for us, our attorney was eating dinner with us. Also, the sheriff and three other attorneys were eating out with their friends at Paco’s that night too. They were regulars of ours. The five went to bat for us and they demanded to see the documentation from the officers and agents and determined that not one single person had the authority to shut us down. In fact, they had fabricated documents in their possession created by the neighbor instructing them to shut us down. Our attorney filed a law suit with the MICI and against the neighbor…and a few others involved in this corrupt ring of people he discovered while trying to get to the bottom of these fabricated documents and illegal cancellation of our permit.
The MICI reinstated our permit and issued a letter of apology. I wish they would’ve called the news station to run that story, but of course, this apology was hush-hush.
Apparently, we hadn’t been anywhere near the first, but the hubs and I agreed that we would do our best to make sure we were the last victims of this corrupt ring of government agents. We forged ahead with the lawsuit and with Paco’s, but we weren’t having fun anymore. The neighbor had killed the joy in our hangout spot.
We talked to our landlord and let her know what was going on, how unhappy we were, and that we didn’t want to be open anymore. To our surprise, she told us not only is the neighbor corrupt, but the neighbor has always had it in for her family and has driven the last 5 businesses away that had rented this exact property!
We decided to close this location until we could find another one in Chorrera that offered the same type of ambience, indoor and outdoor dining with enough room for a stage and dance floor. Until then, we’re working on Locos Grill & Burritos in Gorgona that will be open on the weekends and is minutes from the beach. We’re putting in a dance floor, platform for bands, and a big screen for outdoor movies just like we had at Paco’s. We have our fingers crossed that there aren’t any neighbor problems, but seeing as Gorgona is a weekend town, I’m sure we’re in the clear!