Proprietor’s Plan To Bring LaHa To Berlin Still Intact

BERLIN – The La Hacienda Mexican restaurant is still coming to Berlin, despite rumors that the site was for sale, but not for at least a year.

Redevelopment plans in Berlin involving other restaurants have prompted questions about the oft-delayed La Hacienda project on north Main St. The restaurant was once predicted to open in fall 2008.

No work has been done on the site at the northwest corner of the Main St. and Old Ocean City Blvd. intersection. The dilapidated Neon Moon Café continues to sit on the empty parking lot.

But the Berlin La Hacienda is coming, according to Bill Herbst, owner of the Ocean City La Hacienda restaurant and developer of the new site in Berlin.

“I totally expect it to happen. It’s not going to happen before the year’s up, I can tell you that for sure,” said Herbst.

First begun in 2005, the restaurant and retail project suffered extensive delays during the town of Berlin approval process, taking over a year to reach site plan approval by the Berlin Planning Commission, in September 2006. The delay arose from repeated discussions over parking, power lines and traffic concerns.

Further discussions of the building design and then a challenge to the zoning certificate by local resident Sandy Coyman followed, pushing the project further into the future.

“The city put us behind the eight-ball numerous times,” said Herbst. “The indecision on their part created a lot of time that got chewed up…it took a ridiculous amount of time.”

The project had to go through too much red tape that caused numerous delays and cost money, Herbst said.

With the torpid economy, financing the project has become more difficult.

“The money that’s out there for building is available, it’s just harder to get,” said Herbst.

One result of the delay has been the need for a new environmental assessment of the site. The original environmental assessment was out of date, at two years old, in the eyes of potential financers.

The work on La Hacienda and the accompanying shops must also wait on Herbst’s partner, which he declined to identify, who is currently at work on two other projects.

Herbst cannot say when the work will begin and could not offer a target date to open the new La Hacienda.

“I get that question everyday,” said Herbst, who could not predict an opening for the Berlin site until building commences.

The new restaurant could open sometime in 2009, he said.