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Although the alcohol license was revoked, it can be transferred, Shafer explained.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