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'It means the world to me': Covington restaurant owner thankful his business is safe after attempted arson

Zapata Cantina
Posted at 5:31 PM, Mar 10, 2023

COVINGTON, Ky. — Police said a man set fire to a building in Covington, then attempted to do the same to a restaurant — Zapata Cantina.

Zapata Cantina's owner, Alex Rodriguez, said he is very thankful tonight because this restaurant is his everything.

"It means the world to me,” he said. “This is my baby."

Rodriguez took some ideas from old family recipes and opened the Mexican restaurant in Covington almost three years ago — just months before the pandemic hit. He said it hasn't been easy navigating the challenges that came as a result of the pandemic.

"We're just thankful that we still have the doors open," Rodriguez said.

This week, another challenge for the business owner. This week had led to another challenge for the business owner after he got a call from Covington police early Thursday morning.

“Someone tried to break into our window with a makeshift bomb," Rodriguez said.

He said a man threw a bottle at the window to try to break it, but his windows are made of double-plated glass, so the first bottle didn’t fully break the window. Rodriguez said surveillance video shows the man lighting a second bottle on fire.

“I believe that he accidentally lit himself on fire,” he said. ”So, he leaves it on the ground of the sidewalk. The sidewalk catches on fire, and he runs away.”

This wasn't the first time this week something similar happened in Covington.

On Monday, officers were called to an apartment building just down the street from the restaurant to investigate a burglary. On Tuesday, they were called back to that same building for a structure fire, and authorities determined it was intentionally set.

The Criminal Investigation Bureau determined David Juarez was responsible for all three incidents. A judge set his bond at $250,000, and he's set to be back in court on March 16.

After the arrest, Rodriguez is attempting to have a positive outlook going forward.

"I'm glad nothing was completely broken into," he said. "We're still positive, we're still open for business."

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