Victor Saucedo, a longtime India Palace customer, has been indulging in what he calls some of Santa Fe’s most authentic dishes since 2015.
He orders takeout at least once a month, he said on Monday, and is in love with the restaurant’s unique and mouth-watering flavors.
He misses the experience of dining there.
A year after an attack on the popular downtown restaurant rocked the community amid growing racial tensions in Santa Fe and across the country, workers say the insults spray-painted on the walls are gone and that other significant damage has been repaired. But doors remain closed at India Palace as cooks prepare take-out food in a newly built kitchen.
“Unfortunately, we still don’t have our tables and chairs,” said Cameron Brown, director of operations at India Palace. “COVID has arrived. They couldn’t get the orders from overseas. Once that is settled, we can finally reopen. “
Santa Fe Police, assisted by the FBI and the Attorney General’s Office, have still not named a suspect in what agencies are investigating as a hate crime on June 22, 2020.
Brown and the owners of the India Palace are disappointed at the length of the investigation and the lack of communication with the police. But they are moving forward with hope, backed by overwhelming support from the community.
“When I first heard about the attack in the newspapers, I couldn’t believe it,” said Saucedo, 25. “It was very devastating. What has this place done to these kinds of people?”
He never would have thought that someone would commit such an attack in Santa Fe, he said.
Brown, who has been working at the restaurant since 2013, is not just an employee. Owner Baljit Singh and his son, Baljot Singh, quickly became like family, he said.
He often refers to Baljit Singh as “Papa”.
Brown was the first to alert the Singhs to the attack, which caused nearly $ 100,000 in damage.
The words “White Power”, “Trump 2020”, “Return to Your Country” and other racial remarks were spray painted on the building and the artwork. The kitchen and dining rooms were devastated. Wine bottles were smashed, tables smashed, and glasses and dishes smashed.
Before the attack, Brown and Baljot Singh used the restaurant to prepare food and care packages for homeless people in the community during the coronavirus pandemic. These supplies were left scattered around the restaurant.
Baljit Singh said at the time that this was the first such crime he faced at the Palace of India, which had been operating one block from the Plaza on Don Gaspar Avenue for about 30 years. years.
The damage to the building was so extensive, said Brown, that it was cheaper to renovate the interior than to replace what had been destroyed.
“We took care of some things. The contractors did a decent job,” he said. “There are still things they haven’t fixed, but we got over them and worked together to do them ourselves.”
In addition to a new kitchen, new floors and repainted walls, the restaurant has stepped up its security measures. It now has 24-hour CCTV cameras inside and out, and all the locks have been replaced.
“We couldn’t take the risk anymore,” Brown said.
The attack was the second violent incident at the site in less than a week. Days before the restaurant was hit, Brown said, he and Baljit Singh had a confrontation with a man in the parking lot who drew a gun.
Brown said he believed the vandalism was sparked by racial tensions that escalated last summer.
“With all the movements going on at the time and how the state has gotten a bit worse with crime lately, I feel like it was a hate crime,” he said. declared.
“It was nothing we couldn’t get past, however.”
Community support poured in after the attack and made all the difference in the Singh’s ability to rebuild the business. Unsolicited GoFundMe campaigns from other community members raised over $ 120,000.
Brown said it took about five or six months before the kitchen was ready to reopen for take out. He worked for free during this time amid the pandemic, when it was difficult for all the restaurants in the city to stay afloat.
“We are at a point of balance. We are trying to get everything back on track where it is supposed to be,” he said.
Santa Fe Deputy Police Chief Paul Joye said the investigation into the India Palace attack remains active. The department has been following the leads for almost a year, he said, adding that he could not disclose any details.
“We did interviews. We followed the leads,” Joye said. “We’ve had a few over the year that we’ve investigated and followed up on.”
Investigators also removed surveillance video from neighboring businesses.
Still, Brown said the company has lost a lot of trust in the department.
“Honestly, it doesn’t look good because at the end of the day we should have some sort of update, and it’s been over a year,” he said. “We’re just left in the dark like everyone else.”
He and the restaurant owners are still concerned about yet another horrific attack, he said, and they are frustrated with their experience with investigators.
Once, Brown said, they were asked to go to the police station to examine the evidence, but when they arrived, that did not happen.
“[Police] Said ‘Hey, we’ve got pictures of potential suspects. We would love you to come and take a look. “But,” said Brown, “When we got there, there weren’t any pictures, and they asked us a bunch of questions and made us write things down. “
Joye contested the request. He said Brown and the Singh family were brought in to discuss information received during the investigation, not to view photos of potential suspects.
Now, if the police want to contact the restaurateurs, Brown asks them to go through a lawyer.
District 1 City Councilor Renee Villareal, who represents the city center, also criticized the department’s lack of updates in the case, which she called a disservice to the community as well as restaurant owners.
“I think it is frustrating not to have access to updates on the investigations, even as an elected official, especially when it comes to my district,” she said.
City Councilor Chris Rivera, who represents District 3 on the southwest side, defended the police department’s handling of the case.
“There are always public security elements where information can be released quickly,” he said. “But there are always cases or issues that are still under investigation, where really a lot of information cannot be passed on without affecting the investigation in some way. other.”
Joye said the agency took the matter seriously.
“The things that have been written are sad and disgusting,” he said. “Just by the nature of the way this matter went, it took longer to work out, and we want to make sure we’re doing it right.”
He added: “Just because people haven’t seen anything doesn’t mean we’re not actively working on things.”