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Bel Air Cantina looks to open in East Tosa

Mexican restaurant seeks grant to help buy, remodel building

July 20, 2012

East Tosa may become the site of an oasis for Mexican food lovers.

Bel Air Cantina - the popular restaurant already has a location on Milwaukee's East Side - could be celebrating Taco Tuesdays and serving up "Cali-Mexican" cuisine and flights of tequila in the building that last served as the Aqua Terra fish store, 6817 W. North Ave.

The city, through its Wauwatosa Economic Development Corp., has nearly $347,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds to allocate through spring, 2013, in an effort to spur development and job creation. Bel Air Cantina is one of three applicants requesting funding, which will be discussed by the WEDC on Tuesday.

Bel Air Cantina is seeking $150,000 to help buy the building, which would then be completely remodeled inside and out. The project would cost a total of about $1.4 million for the business, according to a report by the city's Development Department.

Restaurant owners Leslie Montemurro and Scott Johnson also are behind other Milwaukee-area hotspots such as Balzac, Palomino, Hi-Hat Lounge and Fuel.

The request for block grant funds comes following a $100,000 low-interest loan from the Wauwatosa Revolving Loan Fund Corp., which was granted to Bel Air Cantina earlier this week to purchase furniture and equipment for the Tosa restaurant.

An existing popular East Tosa restaurant, Il Mito, 6913 W. North Ave., also is seeking $130,000 in grant funds to make its facility handicapped-accessible, add seating and expand the catering portion of the business. The project is anticipated to create eight jobs.

The final applicant is Century Automatic Services, a juice concentrate maker at 802 N. 109th St., that wants $199,000 to expand its operation. Adding equipment and offering training could create three new jobs.

In total, the three requests exceed the grant dollars available by $131,500, so they will not all be able to be granted in full.

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