Spiking Cocktail Prices Closes Carlos Club

Photograph by Thomas Hawk.

Photograph by Thomas Hawk.

En Español.

Carlos Club, the popular working-class hangout next to the 24th Street BART station (whose name never quite matched the sign hanging above its front door), served its last drink on June 30, when its alcohol license was suspended indefinitely by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

According to Danielle Shafer, supervisor investigator with the department, a six-month investigation in 2009-2010 found bar owner Carlos Gutierrez and his employees guilty of profit-sharing, where cocktail waitresses pressure patrons into buying drinks at a higher rate than usual.

The investigator saw waitresses charging customers between $5 and $10 more than the bar’s standard prices and splitting the profits with the owner. According to Shafer, the practice is common in Asia and Latin America but is illegal in San Francisco.

In October 2010, an undercover investigator cited the Carlos Club for having “permitted a female employee to solicit alcohol for her own consumption” [PDF], a practice that would go unremarked in most of Latin America, where it is common for men to buy drinks for female employees and in some cases pay to dance with them. In San Francisco, it is illegal for bar workers to drink on the job.

The Carlos Club continued to operate despite the accusations because owners Carlos and Rosa Gutierrez filed for due process. The case went to an administrative hearing in March, and the court ruled against the owners.

Department officials are not sure how long the establishment had been soliciting illegally, or whether any other suspicious activity took place. The last time the bar made local news seems to have been 2005, when it ran afoul of the city’s minimum wage laws.

Shafer said the agency decided to annul the bar’s alcohol license for 12 months, until the permit is transferred to another location and owner.

Although the alcohol license was revoked, it can be transferred, Shafer explained.

Unless a new owner steps forward to take over the bar at 3278 24th Street, the site will remain closed until a new application is filed and approved by city officials and Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Carlos and Rosa Gutierrez first obtained a license to serve spirits in 1979, around the same time they opened Carlos Club. Since then, the bar has been a preferred watering hole for Latinos — especially recent immigrants — looking to kick back after a long day at work.

On July 4, Jesus Navarro, 36, stood outside the chained doors, bewildered. He was unaware of the bar’s troubles, and had come by looking for a drink on a hot day.

“I haven’t seen anything strange,” Navarro said in Spanish. “I come here to enjoy a beer and listen to music. But I guess I have to go somewhere else.”

12 Comments

  1. jsonie

    This is a huge win for the neighborhood. Little thug punks always hanging out front trying to claim this area….And old-man alcoholics urinating, vomiting, and screaming in front of the bar all hours of the day and night….

    There are many watering holes for locals that are more respectful of the neighbors…. I mean Carlos doesn’t even keep the doors closed… The doors are wide open, blasting ranchero music till 2AM on Sundays…. Good riddance…

    • Schlub

      I always had to stop and wonder, is this bar named:

      A) Carlo’s
      B) Carlos’
      C) Carlos’s
      D) Carlos

      I guess we’ll never know now.

      • I feel you. It’s Carlos Club (no apostrophe) in all formal records that we could find, but Carlo’s Bar on the sign. Why? It is a mystery for the ages, that’s for sure.

  2. Having lived in Mexico for years, I’m a big fan of cantinas. I walked into this bar expecting to listen to some ranchera music on the jukebox, have a drink and perhaps chat with the regulars. Instead I was charged ten dollars for a drink and couldn’t enjoy it because every minute I was being pressured to order another one. The cocktail waitresses perched on the bar stool next to me pressuring me to buy them an overpriced cocktail, while other waitresses (ficheras) worked the room soliciting drinks and after hour sex with the customers. The experience was nothing like a cantina or a good old neighborhood dive. It was a high pressure con job. I was very happy when I passed by this week and saw that it had been closed. It was long overdue!

  3. people hanging out outside, people being overcharged for drinks and loud music blasting all sound like regular bar activities.
    if people felt like they were being pressured, why couldnt they just leave?
    there are several restaurants in this city where the pull is that they are a little rough around the edges of customer service. are we gonna shut them down for being mean.
    i also suspect that there was something else going on here to warrant a shut down.

    • sfmissionman

      Well, what do suspect that “something else” might be? This seems perfectly straightforward to me. I see no need to “suspect” more than the ABC violations cited.

  4. rjames

    As someone that lives around the corner on Capp st I say good riddance as well! This wasn’t a local dive bar that encourages hanging out and having a good time in the mission such Doc’s clock, Dirty Thieves, Napper Tandy, Phone Booth, Mission Bar, and etc.

    Now this doesn’t mean violence doesn’t occur in any of the bars above but why did it always seem there was a fist or knife fight outside Carol’s every other night?

    What I especially won’t miss is all the thugs that stand out front looking for trouble as people pass by… I just want to get to bart or grab a burrito at Farolito’s in peace!

  5. virgo70

    This is a bar that has been around the neighborhood for years and has always had loud music and thugs hanging around. It should have been shut down a long time ago. I just question why now? Why not shut down the McDonald’s while you are at it? This is another place that has always attracted thugs. Gee I wonder who will take over this bar? Let’s see it’s convenient to Bart? Hmmm what do you think? Another hipster bar? If they are going to shut this place down for violations, then they should also shut down the liquor stores that have loitering in front of their stores and not to mention the drug dealing that goes on from their stores.

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