Business

Downtown Merced eatery closed for years will be demolished. It’s a safety issue, officials say

Downtown Merced restaurant to be demolished

The city of Merced will dip into its economic opportunity fund to pay for the demolition of the downtown building that held Reinero’s Trophy Room and was damaged by fires. Staffers say it’s a safety concern.
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The city of Merced will dip into its economic opportunity fund to pay for the demolition of the downtown building that held Reinero’s Trophy Room and was damaged by fires. Staffers say it’s a safety concern.

The city of Merced will dip into its economic opportunity fund to pay for the demolition of an old downtown storefront damaged by fires.

The UC Oriental Market in the 600 block of Main Street was gutted by a fire in December 2016 and has since been completely demolished.

Arson is suspected. UC Oriental Market business owner Mai Moua and her partner, Zang Her, were ordered to stand trial earlier this year, accused of burning down that business for the insurance payout. They are due back in court in May.

The building next door, which once held Reinero’s Trophy Room, was damaged by a fire a month earlier and could now be a safety issue, city officials said.

The council voted to spend $120,400 to abate structural and other problems with the area in its entertainment district.

The old restaurant has asbestos and a stress-fractured facade, according to Denise Frazier, the city’s chief building official. The city plans to put a tax lien on the property or could pursue other options to recoup the cost.

Across the street from the former market and restaurant is the El Capitan Hotel, which is undergoing major construction as it transfers over to a four-story hotel with a restaurant, cafe and bar. The movement of cars in the area and heavy equipment makes the battered restaurant a potential liability, according to City Manager Steve Carrigan.

Within a block of the restaurant also are the Hotel Tioga and Mainzer Theater, each undergoing a revitalization.

“With all the development going on on Main Street there’s a lot of vibration going on,” Carrigan said. “(Reinero’s has) become a major concern for us.”

He said the city also has plans to work on paving and storm drains on Main Street this summer.

Councilmember Fernando Echavarria cast the only vote against the demolition. He said he couldn’t support spending the money on “someone else’s building.”

The old Reinero’s Italian restaurant was a popular eatery going back to the 1940s but closed down some time after 2000. It had a short-lived re-birth in 2013.

Councilmember Jill McLeod represents the District 3, which includes downtown.

“We all want to be able to use that area and enjoy it, and I think it prevents a safety issue that is a concern,” she said. “We don’t want to be facing somebody’s injury or other issue that’s potentially costly and damaging.”

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