Controversial landlord buys former El Zocalo restaurant in Mexicantown


  • LIza Lagman Sperl/Flickr

Detroit landlord Dennis Kefallinos has purchased the former El Zocalo Mexican restaurant in Southwest Detroit.

The Detroit News reports that Kefallinos bought the building for $1.2 million in August, and he plans to reopen it this summer. It's been closed since 2016.

However, some label Keffalinos a slumlord as he has a record of sitting on properties, letting properties rot, and not taking good care of his inhabited buildings. Among the most high profile of the latter is the Russel Industrial Center, which the city ordered tenants to vacate in 2017 over safety issues.

Metro Times also reported that 10 of 11 Kefallinos-owned buildings didn't have certificates of occupancy in 2014, and residents at his lofts have detailed a range of problems and safety concerns at his properties.

He also owns the Southwest Detroit Hospital at 2401 20th St., a deteriorating stainless steel building near Michigan Avenue that's been empty for many years.

The News
reported that Kefallinos in 2017 owed more than $382,000 for unpaid water bills, though the tab has since been paid. 

Kefallinos declined to comment for this story, but told The News he has never asked for a tax break, so he doesn't have the money to fix or maintain his properties.

“Everything I’ve done, I’ve never asked for a tax credit from the city or state," he said. "I’m doing things the hard way, sometimes you have to cut corners."

Of course, one way to be able to afford to fix blighted properties in one's portfolio is to curb purchases of even more busted buildings.

El Zocalo is a neighbor to La Gloria bakery, two tortilla factories, Los Galanes, Taqueria Lupita, and other small food businesses in Mexicantown.

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