Fiesta feels caught by legal battles

Kim Kibler said in the fight between Joe Mentor and the city of Port Orchard, everyone seems to have completely overlooked the entity that suffers most from these disagreements — her restaurant.

Kibler, general manager of the Fiesta Mexican Restaurant on Bay Street, said all these citations and court battles have wreaked havoc on her business. While various agencies argued over whether Mentor — the owner of the building Fiesta occupies — had any right to change the topography of the property as he renovated the then-abandoned building, Kibler said paying customers were leaving in droves.

“They told me they were going to Tweten’s and I was like, ‘Aaaah!,’” she said. “Since the beginning of the summer, I had maybe 75 tables leave (like that).”

For most of the summer, Kibler explained, Tweten’s had a draw she simply couldn’t match — an outdoor deck overlooking the water.

Fiesta does have a deck — a stamped concrete slab fenced in with brightly-painted railings. However, because of the ongoing legal wrangling, Kibler said, the business wasn’t allowed to use it.

The deck in question overlooks — indeed practically overhangs — Ross Creek. The city put a stop-work order on the entire back half of the restaurant property after Mentor dumped several cubic yards of crushed rock down the side of the creek bank, supposedly to stabilize it.

The rock is largely gone, but Kibler wasn’t allowed to even turn over a shovel-full of dirt back there until this week, following Mentor’s victory in city municipal court.

“When I grass this in, I can have tables out here,” Kibler said, gesturing to the still-scrubby areas adjoining the deck.

Kibler isn’t wasting any time making up for the lost summer. As soon as she got word of the court decision on Tuesday — the judge ruled Mentor did not violate any regulations by dumping the rock and therefore the stop-work order was inappropriate — she immediately started seating people on the deck.

The results were obvious. Last Thursday at lunchtime the small patio was packed full of diners enjoying the gorgeous weather. Only a handful chose to sit inside.

Fiesta has only been in business since May, and Kibler said she and her sister are still running in the red to keep it going. However, she has hopes that the newly open deck and her planned grassed-in expansion will help re-attract the flood of customers she said came in at the very beginning.

“When we first opened, we had a lot of business,” Kibler said. “But as soon as summer came around and people wanted to sit outside, we lost business.”

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