Panda Garden on Center Street in Auburn. Sun Journal photo

This week the Buzz is making way for tactical simulations and tacos.

First up: Good-bye Panda Garden, Hello El Tequila.

The longtime Chinese restaurant has closed at 245 Center St. and renovations are underway for El Tequila Mexican Restaurant.

It appears to be part of a local chain: Brunswick and Augusta have El Tequila Mexican Restaurants, but calls to both Friday, as well as to the business owner listed on the city sign permit, were unsuccessful.

Eric Cousens, Auburn’s deputy director of economic and community development, said he hadn’t yet heard a firm opening date.

Panda Garden had been open at least since 2004, according to Sun Journal archives.

New training facility

Central Maine Community College’s planned simulation center to better prepare criminal justice and other public service students for real-world scenarios received a $100,000 boost this week from the Davis Family Foundation.

Matt Tifft, a criminal justice instructor and chairman of the public service and social science department, said he hopes to break ground in the spring and have it open in the fall of 2021.

The total project cost is estimated at $200,000 to $250,000.

Tifft said it will feature movable walls and a flexible layout: “You could set up a jail cell, you could set up a home, you could set up whatever you want to simulate for an environment so we can create that sense of realism. We’ve been talking about this for seven or eight years now.”

Students hoping to enter fields such as law enforcement, counseling or forensic science can walk through scenarios as part of their training for a better hands-on experience, he said.

“We need to emphasize better mindfulness training, better communication training, more deescalation emphasis — that really is the driving force behind the facility,”  Tifft said. “Our programming is responding to the demands and the expectations that the students are going to be working in.”

Quick hits about business comings, goings and happenings. Have a Buzzable tip? Contact staff writer Kathryn Skelton at 689-2844 or [email protected]

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