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Published October 23 2010

Trade Talk: Even more Mexican on horizon

The return of Jalapenos was evidently a good omen for Fargo’s Mexican cuisine scene. Work on a new Mexican restaurant, El Mezcal, is under way at 2515 University Drive S.

That’s the former site of North American Steak Buffet, which closed in September. The building has been painted bright orange, and the interior is being renovated.

The restaurant is owned by Pedro Unzueta, who also owns Mexican restaurants in Fergus Falls, Minn., and Baxter, Minn. The menus of those restaurants feature a broad range of Mexican food.

Miguel Perez, an El Mezcal employee who was working on the interior this week, said the plan is to open the restaurant in November. The restaurant’s liquor license was approved by the city this week.

Indeed, last week was a busy one for the city’s liquor control board, which also processed a beer and wine license for Samurai Japanese cuisine and Smashburger, both of which are coming to 45th Street South between 17th and 18th avenues.

Shoe Carnival opening

A flashy new shoe store is set to open in the TJ Maxx Plaza on 13th Avenue South.

Shoe Carnival, an Evansville, Ind.-based chain, is scheduled to open Nov. 1. The store carries several major brands and features upbeat music and a “spin and win” prize wheel inside.

There are more than 300 shoe carnival locations nationwide. A grand opening for the Fargo location is Nov. 6.

“Our motto is we believe shopping for shoes should be fun,” says Stacy Carr, the chain’s promotions manager.

An age-old dilemma

As I reported this week, the arrival of Bada Bing, a new fully nude strip club on the outskirts of Fargo, stirred little fanfare and few public complaints.

But a handful of people asked me the same question: How old do you have to be to get in?

The club is permitted to have fully nude dancers because it doesn’t serve alcohol. For the same reason, it’s not bound by

21-plus restrictions. I checked with owner Mike Benzinger, who told me the club admits patrons 18 and older.

That broadens Benzinger’s customer base, but at least one reader (who asked not to be named because he didn’t want to go on the record talking about strip clubs) called to tell me he and his friends weren’t enthused about the concept of visiting an establishment that admits 18-year-olds.

“We don’t want to hang out with a bunch of high school kids,” the reader said.

He pointed out that the decision to admit 18-year-olds was one of the factors that triggered a standoff between the city of Riverside (now part of West Fargo) and the Surf Club, a nude dance club that opened in 1987. The city scrambled to pass laws restricting adult entertainment centers – including a provision that restricted patrons to 21-plus – and the club closed a year later after a pitched legal battle.

Then again, three years might not make a difference. As my dismayed caller told me, “21 is almost too young.”

You can also connect with Trade Talk online at www.tradetalk.areavoices.com.

Readers can reach Forum business reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502.