East Tupelo eatery approved for beer sales

TUPELO – A Mexican restaurant that floundered for months without a city beer permit has received its long-awaited approval and now seeks a liquor license, too.
Los Toros, located off Veterans Boulevard near the U.S. Highway 78 overpass, received a municipal variance this month allowing it to sell beer and light wine despite operating less than 400 feet from a residential property.
The restaurant had tried to get the variance earlier this year, but the attempt was dropped amid objections from neighbors concerned about drunken driving.
No one spoke against the move this time, however, and it easily passed both the Planning Committee and the City Council.
Los Toros began serving beer and light wine Oct. 20.
“It helps,” said Juan Leon, who owns the restaurant along with his brother Jose.
The Leons also own six other Mexican restaurants throughout Northeast Mississippi, with beer sales bringing in about 15 percent of each eatery’s profits.
Liquor brings in another 30 percent, Juan Leon said.
Los Toros opened its doors in February in a one-story brick building where at least two other restaurants – Country Squire and Steak & Company – had previously operated. Los Toros owners leased the building with the understanding they could sell alcohol.
But within weeks, the Leons learned they couldn’t sell without a variance because of the building’s proximity to a residence.
The building’s owner, Freddy Norman, had applied and received a variance for Los Toros from the Planning Committee but dropped the application before the City Council had a chance to vote on it.
Since then, sales have been tough, said Leslie Carnathan-Clock, a business consultant with Maximum Power who helped the restaurant get its permit this time. At one point, the Leons worried they’d lose their lease option despite having invested $150,000 into the property.
“I have had customers ask if we sell beer, and when we tell them no, they just leave,” Jose Leon told the Daily Journal earlier this year. “We lose 10-15 customers a week that way.”
With the beer permit in hand and a liquor license in the works, the Leons hope their latest venture will succeed.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal