The owner of Maverick Texas Brasserie is mounting a last-second fight against the size of Rosario’s new restaurant, which is planned to be built next door on the site of the old El Mirador on South St. Mary’s Street. Peter Selig’s complaint that the new Rosario’s is too big, and that its planned 20-foot wall will box in his restaurant’s outdoor patio and the only two windows in the main dining room, has garnered the support of more than 1,300 people who’ve signed a petition on Change.org.
Rosario’s plan would be “destructive to the character of the building that houses Maverick,” Karl Baker, a lawyer for the Maverick, told the Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) last week. Baker also said the “scale and mass of the building is wildly disproportionate” compared to nearby buildings, including the Maverick.
In December, the HDRC gave Rosario’s owner Lisa Wong preliminary approval to demolish most of the old El Mirador building, 722 S. St. Mary’s St., so she can construct a new home for the Southtown staple she’s owned a block away on South Alamo for 28 years. She was scheduled to return to the HDRC last Wednesday for final approval.
That’s when Maverick owner Peter Selig first spoke out publicly against the size of Rosario’s proposed building—a building taking up 20,000 square foot of space with two floors, a rooftop bar, and a large outdoor dining room.
“It seems the sole consideration for the applicant here is to super-size the square footage of Rosario’s,” Selig told the HDRC on March 3, speaking of Wong. The new building, which would double the size of the current restaurant, according to Wong, would extend over the parking lot that separates the Maverick and El Mirador, leaving six inches of space between the two buildings. A new parking lot for Rosario’s would face South Presa.
The comments were made at the beginning of the HDRC meeting on March 3, but the case was not deliberated by commissioners due to time constraints. The HDRC is scheduled to hear the case on March 17.
At the December HDRC meeting, Wong said the restaurant’s potential size was in large part because of “Covid considerations” and would provide a “more diverse dining experience to patrons.”
Selig also claims Wong’s proposed building violates the site’s zoning, which, according to Selig, references a site plan that calls for roughly 11,000 square feet of commercial space on the land.
“The (Unified Development Code) zoning site plan also shows an ample buffer between Maverick and the adjacent property that the owners of Maverick have relied upon in building their business,” he told the commission.
Wong’s plan also includes restoring the historic King William Garden House into a private dining room, and moving the F.L. Dixon house (currently home to Pig Liquors) to the southernmost edge of the property.
Selig is not the only person to oppose the proposed design for Rosario’s. More than 150 San Antonio residents called into the last HDRC meeting to voice their concerns. Three days later, Selig started a petition on Change.org that requests “a new design that doesn’t block the Maverick patio or overwhelm the parking demand.”
At the last HDRC meeting, Selig said Wong “has made no attempt to inform or work with Maverick on its plans, or address any of our concerns.” Wong did not speak at the meeting.
It’s unclear whether Selig and Wong have talked since the March 3 meeting, or whether they’re both dug in on their respective positions.
Selig and Wong, both of whom declined to be interviewed for this article, are, as Selig described in an email, co-managers of Acenar Ltd., the entity that owns and operates River Walk restaurant Acenar.
At the meeting in December, concerns were raised by the Conservation Society of San Antonio and Southtown neighborhood associations about the building’s size, as well as its potential to produce noise in the form of live entertainment. The concerns were addressed by either Douglas Architects, or Wong, and seem to have satisfied previous worries. Except for Selig, who, until last week’s HDRC meeting, had not voiced his opposition to the plan.
In an interview, Cherise Rohr-Allegrini, president of the Lavaca Neighborhood Association, said she was concerned about the potential volume of people coming in and out of the new Rosario’s.
Rohr-Allegrini said the Lavaca Neighborhood Association focuses on “how the building impacts the environment—how the construction engages with the community,” and not “debates between neighbors … (between) business partners.”
“Maverick has a zero lot line,” she said, meaning the architects of the Maverick have built up to the line on their respective lot. And, “Rosario’s has a zero lot line—they have done nothing wrong in that regard.”
Rosario’s plan to demolish majority of San Antonio’s El Mirador building receives first approval (Dec. 4, 2020)
Emily Drisch is a freelance journalist in San Antonio. Follow her at @partylkeits1999 on Twitter