NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- The City of New Rochelle has shut down El Agave Azul Mexican Restaurant located at 238 Washington Avenue just two weeks after the Bronx County Medical Examiner declared a homicide in the death of Juan Mendoza-Torres, 23, a Mexican man who moved to New Rochelle three months ago. A story first reported on Talk of the Sound (and only on Talk of the Sound, so far).
The restaurant, which primarily serves as a late night bar for the Mexican community in New Rochelle's West End, was declared "Unsafe" due to numerous building code violations found by the City’s Quality of Life Task Force which on Wednesday night conducted a surprise raid on the establishment.
El Agave Azul has been on the radar of City officials for over a year due to numerous complaints of fights, violence, drug dealing and other criminal activity occurring in or around the restaurant.
“There are fights out in front of the place every Friday and Saturday night,” said one long-time resident who asked not to be identified.
City officials could not be reached for comment as news of the closure came after the end of the day at City Hall going into the weekend but City Manager Charles B. Strome noted two weeks ago that his administration has closed dozens of troublesome businesses over the past fifteen years” but cautioned patience.
“It’s long a process which takes time,” said Strome.
Quality of Life Task Force members found numerous state and local violations including serious electrical violations.
An official "red" notice from the City of New Rochelle ordering the building closed due to hazardous conditions was taped to a window.
A handmade sign affixed to the front door reads "Readrimos Tan Pronto Agamos Una Remodelasion Electrica" which translates roughly as "We'll be Re-Opening Soon, We're Doing Electrical Renovations".
Told of the message on the sign, one City official scoffed at the notion El Agave Azul would be re-opening anytime soon or that the issue was a matter or "renovations".
"They were closed for unsafe conditions," said Building Bureau chief Paul Vacca. "There were issues with deleterious electrical violations, the fire suppression system, the fire alarm system and more."
In addition to up to six local building code violations, El Agave Azul was cited for at least one violation of the New York State Property Code § 107.1.2 which covers Unsafe Structures and Equipment such as Boilers, Heating Equipment, Electrical wiring or equipment, fuel storage tank or other items in disrepair or a condition that is a hazard.
One of the violations is having electrical wiring affixed to the gas lines running into the building, an extremely serious safety hazard according to Vacca.
A full report is expected to be available to the public next week. Talk of the Sound will obtain the report upon completion.
The death of Juan Mendoza-Torres appears to have intensified efforts by the City to shut down the troublesome restaurant.
Family members have claimed for weeks that Mendoza was savagely beaten that night by three men inside the El Agave Azul.
New Rochelle Police Detectives have been investigating Mendoza's death since an incident on March 28th which was initially thought to have been the result of alcohol poisoning. An autopsy by the Bronx Medical Examiner revealed a brain hemorrhage as the result of blunt force trauma.
Police have no witnesses or video that place Mendoza inside the El Agave Azul, according to the reports.
“Several people were interviewed,” said Captain Cosmo Costa. “They stated that had no knowledge of [Mendoza] being inside of El Agave Azul.”
The inside of the building is equipped with security surveillance cameras but Gonzalez has told police they were not working that night of the incident.
Sources familiar with the West End neighborhood insist that the identify of the men is known to Carlos Gonzalez, owner of El Agave Azul, as well as several employees. None are said to be cooperating with police.
These sources say that a female employee let the three men out the back of the building when police arrived on the night of March 28th, that they are known to her but she is refusing to identify them.
According to these same sources, the three men are known as “Los Tomates” or “the Tomato Brothers”. They are all from Quitipan in Estado Jalisco not far from Guadalajara in Mexico. The three men are known as the “Tomato Brothers” because one of the men has long had the nickname “El Tomate” and three men are frequently together. They are not actually brothers.
“One guy is ‘Tomato’ but other two guys hang out with him so people started calling them “the Tomato Brothers” said one source who asked not to be identified out of fear of reprisals.
Talk of the Sound first broke the story that the death of Juan Mendoza-Torres had been declared a homicide in an article that provided great detail into what took place that night: MURDER IN NEW ROCHELLE: Medical Examiner Declares Death of Mexican Man in New Rochelle a Homicide
EDITOR'S NOTE: If you have information on the identify of the Tomato Brothers or about the incidents leading up to the death of Juan Mendoza-Torres we would like to hear from you at 914-325-4616 or [email protected]. Se Habla Español.