Bar May Lose License Over Fights, Drugs, Prostitution

A rowdy dive bar in San Jose may lose its license unless it cleans up its act.

El Tarasco, a ramshackle watering hole on the corner of N. 14th and Mission streets, has “made life miserable for nearby neighbors” for the past five years, according to Councilman Sam Liccardo.

In May, the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) agency filed formal complaints against the establishment. They accuse the owners of allowing patrons and employees to sell drugs and letting workers solicit drinks from customers.

Folks living around the bar say it’s much worse that that. El Tarasco patrons urinate and defecate on the streets, sidewalks and even in people’s yards, neighbors say. Fights break out in and outside the bar. People routinely bring their drinks outside. Despite having no entertainment permit from the city, owners allegedly host live music and strippers.

“We are told that the stripping and lap dancing has led to solicitation of prostitution being the norm both in and around the property,” Liccardo writes in a report going before the Rules and Open Government Committee today.

In the past year, police have responded to calls of drunken driving, a felony hit and run and assault with a deadly weapon. Two years ago, a bar worker was gunned down right outside.

“Disturbingly, this behavior appears only to be increasing,” Liccardo cautioned.

Neighbors reported calling 9-1-1 more than 100 times in the past two months alone for problems such as prostitution, violence, brandishing guns and drunken driving.

“More of the reported illegal conduct appears to have spilled out onto the street in recent months,” Liccardo wrote.

ABC delayed a disciplinary hearing for El Tarasco from this week to Nov. 9. An ABC agent said she could provide no further information about the case.

“In the meantime, this drinking establishment will continue to consume undue hours of [San Jose Police Department] resources in response to ongoing complaints of violence, drugs, property crime and disorder,” Liccardo states.

The downtown councilman wants the city to take action against the bar and worries that revoking El Tarasco’s liquor license might not be enough to boot it from the premises. Even if it did, it wouldn’t prevent another bar from opening up shop right after, he said. The best to way to ensure that the property isn’t used as a bar is to revoke the building’s special permit, which allows the owner to run it as a drinking establishment even though current zoning doesn’t technically allow it. Liccardo said the city could revoke that special permit after hearings and due process.

“Despite the flurry of complaints about this property from neighbors and from my council office, however, residents understandably complain that they have seen no indication that the city will take appropriate action to shut the bar down,” he wrote.

He’s asking city leaders to schedule a hearing, to get the process started and give the bar a chance to make a case for itself or lose its right to operate there.

Calls to El Tarasco were unanswered. The place boasts one-and-a-half stars out of six reviews on Yelp. Many reviewers echoing neighbors’ complaints about sex-for-sale, drugs and bar fights.

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More from the San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee agenda for Sept. 10, 2014:

  • A local TV station broadcast a program that was “biased, misguided, and trumpeted communist ideologies and denigrated the civil servants and enlisted persons of the former Republic of Vietnam, not to mention the people of the United States of America,” according to a Vietnamese coalition.

WHAT: Rules and Open Government Committee meets
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

30 Comments

  1. sure, if an establishment is causing problems, and is a fundamental scourge on the community, get it shut down. but don’t preclude the possibility of a better place opening there in the future! that’s ridiculously short-sighted, especially if you’re trying to create a better city.

  2. “As dozens of retirement-eligible SJPD officers make a decision in the next few weeks about whether to hang up their uniform and start collecting pension, city leaders are cooking up a plan to keep them on staff”

    The memo linked in the article is authored by Reed, Liccardo and Khamis. The 3 of them are delusional if the think this “plan” or I would call it a scheme would work. The city council has worked very hard to disenfranchise the entire city work force, not just the police, to think that anyone would stay any longer than they need to.

  3. “Disturbingly, this behavior appears only to be increasing,” “More of the reported illegal conduct appears to have spilled out onto the street in recent months,” Liccardo cautioned.

    Sam, it is my understanding that once complaints about a bar trickle in, it would have been directed to the San Jose Vice Unit. An investigation would have started (most likely years ago) and with proper evidence of drug deals, prostitution and ABC violations the bar would have been shut down years ago.

    The fact of the matter is there is no San Jose Vice Unit anymore and nobody in the San Jose Police Department is investigating this matter. The citizens had to wait for the State to investigate.

    The citizens and neighbors in this area should be disgusted that only now is this being dealt with. Right before an election. DESPICABLE.

    • Just Anon For Now –

      Nail, meet ^hammer.

      I wonder how much Sam paid Pulcrano to run this bit of grandstanding..? As journalists, you all really feel good about running this story? Your conscience is clean..? Instead of one of you taking an objective look at the sham of a scam Khamis, Reed and Sam are trying to fleece the public with to “retain” police staffing? You all should really have a heart to heart and re-examine your purpose as journalists.

      This is just pure comedic gold.. Reed and Sam said public employee pensions were “spiraling” out of control. Fast forward to today.. After their half cracked, hair brain schemes have done NOTHING but drive employees out of the city and cause overtime to shoot through the ceiling, they want to give retiring cops (the same ones who Reed said were riding the “gravy train”) an opportunity to double dip for a few years before inevitably leaving? Smart plan!

      How about addressing the debacle you’ve created with the 2nd tier public safety benefits package and the flawed disability provisions of Measure B? Maybe then the city could actually fill an academy and keep recruits around! What a novel concept?? But, instead, their priorities are focused upon dangling a golden carrot in front of soon to be retirees..

      This isn’t rocket science..

      • I would add if the retiring officers stayed without retiring (those with 25 or more years as stated in the memo) why would or should they retire. If they stay until 30 years without retiring their retirement benefit would then reach 90%. Where is the logic in this scheme the city council is trying to put over on the taxpayers/voters/officers?

  4. > Neighbors reported calling 9-1-1 more than 100 times in the past two months alone for problems such as prostitution, violence, brandishing guns and drunken driving.

    Sam and the other big hearts in public service were probably too busy finding [taxpayer paid] foster care placements for the [illegal alien] children [kidnapped from their homes in Latin America by human traffickers] and brought to our border through Mexico by coyotes [for $10,000 per head] and then handed off to the Obama administration for [secretive and unpublicized] relocation to our [over taxed, under serviced sanctuary] city.

    • “SJOUTSIDETHEBUBBLE”:
      This story is about a saloon blighting a neighborhood. It has nothing to do with refugee children or any of your other pet hates.
      Reading suggestions: Matthew 19:14; Luke 18:16.
      Why don’t you post under your real name instead of always hiding behind a cowardly alias?

      • > Why don’t you post under your real name instead of always hiding behind a cowardly alias?

        Oh, WOW!

        A really stinging and penetrating question, Michael.

        You know, I know several people named Michael.

        In fact, there are probably a hundred thousand Michaels in San Jose.

        Which Michael would I be responding to?

  5. As many here know, I worked at a bar 12 years. Part of the reason this exists (ducks for the coming flame) is the lack of help to bar owners from the SJPD. Any business reserves the right to refuse service, but what happens when you refuse service to a bunch of Norteno’s fresh from Salinas?

    I’ll tell you what happens. They start threatening to beat you up. They stand at your doorway yelling, “RACIST” while you’re on the phone with SJPD desperately asking them for help. The response they’ll give you is, “Has anyone been shot? Beat up? Killed?” Then you get spat on. OK, that’s assault, let me send someone out for you.

    While Tom McEneryVille (San Pedro Square) has no shortage of officers, most bars outside of that immediate area are left to their own vices. More often than not, hiring big guys with no security training whatsoever. We saw a sequence of this lack of training, and lack of SJPD response last year when one doorman got his throat slit, and layed there bleeding out on Santa Clara street.

    I’m no stranger to the bar in the article, it was right up the street from where I worked. Far far outside of McEneryville.

    Josh, there’s times I’d love for you to ease up on your “No expletives” rule, this is one of them. This problem probably wouldn’t exist if the bar owner knew he could count on the SJPD to help when a bad element doesn’t leave, then threatens and intimidates a bar owner into letting them, and their bad behavior stay.

    • Robert your way off Base here. The lack of response 98 times out of 100 is directly attributable to the lack of staffing that SJPD has been a fact forever and exacerbated by losses from the Reed-Liccardo Era pension reforms. As for the employee who got his throat slashed SJPD was on scene moments after the incident and arrested the slasher. The man who died was a bar employee who was not working the night he died and it was determined that he was armed and provokedo the incident that lead to his demise and far all charges against the man who cut his throat ro be dropped as it was a very quick and effective case of self defense.

      • Weed it’s been this way since 2001, well before Reed was elected mayor.

        As far as Ryan Viri, there’s the story that’s published in the news based on SJPD press releases, then there’s the story told to me by 3 of my friends that work there. The accounts of what happened that night are completely different, but again, as said, it’s what happens when bars have to rely on hiring “Big Bouncers” to get rid of scumbag patrons, instead of relying on the SJPD. If it was ANY of the San Pedro Square shops calling, SJPD would be there with helicopters.

        • Exactly!!!! Others, including me have been trying to educate the masses for years now. SJPD has always been understaffed BECAUSE the Mayor(s) and Council(S) have made their deals with the devil over the years!!! under staffed now, then , before then….. and on and on and on.

          (PART 1) The City chose to under staff and under pay and under benefit going way back in history and then use smoke and mirrors to say staffing was sufficient. The prime example is the “PAYJOB” officer, moonlighting that is now called “Secondary Employment”.

          The City “supplemented” visible patrol staffing by allowing officers to add to their personal income by working off duty, non- city payjobs, like security at public schools, traffic control for PGE or any company that cuts open a street…. OR THE F’ng BARS!!!

          Ya remember when BARS could hire off duty officers to work in THE BARS in SJPD UNIFORM as site SECURITY????? Up until 1998 or so??? I’ll be the first to admit in hind sight it looked shady (Cops in uniform on the bar’s payroll….) Private Security Companies (ATLAS) had NONE of the “action” and lobbied to get the police out of the bars thinking that they would slide in….

          The bars knew that SJPD were the PRO’s and didn’t want the JV’s… The compromise was the creation of the Entertainment Zone, The Downtown Association collected money from the bars to pay for security and the Ezone PAycars came to be from Thursday through Sunday nights from 10pm to after closing. But it wasn’t Cheap and the bars didn’t want to pay what they were paying and not have an officer or 2 dedicated to their club. so the complaints started and it didn’t look good with 5-10 officers standing at an intersection instead of spread out among the bars on a block –

          SO the DT association (Scott Kneis) and its members and the public with the Merc and later the Metro started complaining the DTSJ was now the “occupied police state” with cops hassling patrons and driving away business to the number of officers was cut – crime continues and increased at times…. How did Knies and the DT Association respond? They said – “its not the BARS or their patrons its the people in the parking garages that are creating the problems…” …and they created the Gararge Paycar detail that hired officers with patrol the garages on Thursday-sunday… Out of sight – out of mind until they are needed on the street…then people complained about police in the garage and the “staggered closing” policy went into effect so that fewer officers roving from closing to closing could handle the crowd and the problems associated with all the “sober, rational good citizens leaving bars at 2 AM….

          stay tuned for part 2

        • Forget SJPD press releases – Was the guy who cut Viri’s throat charged? or released with no charges filed because he had a legitimate self-defense “defense?” Take it up with Rosen!

          (we are still cool fyi)

          • We’re always cool weed :) We might differ on a point or two but we pretty much have the same goal. Stop screwing with our LEO pay and benefits so they don’t dread coming to work in the morning. I just got done with a 1.5 year stint at a crappy job, I’m in a new company now, very happy.

            Not that this is a set in stone economic theory, but I think the more crap you take, the more a job should pay. When the crap outweighs the pay, it’s a bad job, and that’s sort of where SJPD is now.

            Back to Viri’s attacker, no charges were filed. One security camera corroborated his story that it was “Self defense” Since the incident, the cook in question has told people repeatedly that night was “Blacked out”. He was that wasted that night. One of the girls down there told me he was walking up to women, and trying to jam his hand down their pants. That’s why Viri went after him.

      • More detail here than is normally found in the usual sources. (I.e.. a metropolitan newspaper named for a toxic chemical.)

        What is your source of information? How to ordinary people acquire this much detail?

        • You can’t really reproduce the 12 years (pre and post Reed) experience working at a bar trying to keep things dirtbag free, but there’s nothing stopping ordinary people from going down and talking to the owner of Johhny V’s or the people that work there.

          • Here is the “Weeder’s Digest” version of SJPD’s Staffing History…. not even going to get into the Current “P-BID” Staffing model that is in Effect in DTSJ as we speak…

            Robert you are correct that the Current Mayor and Council cant take the blame for “SJPD’s” slow to lack of response to bars before their time. However Mayor(s) and Councils before them set SJPD up to fail in it’s own success.

            Here is the “Weeder’s Digest” history of the City of San Jose’s smoke and mirror staffing of the SJPD.

            SJPD has ALWAYS been short staffed. The City adopted the “Payjob” officer (now called Secondary Employment) many years ago to give the public the impression that there were more officers on duty than there really were by allowing officers to “moonlight” in full uniform to direct traffic, provide sight security at malls, apartment complexes and the like ant the big one: BARS! A secondary reason was the City ALWAYS paid lower salaries then other local police departments and never paid overtime in significant amounts so PayJobs became a way for officers to supplement their less than market rate pay. the City set the hourly rate “outside employers” could pay officers at about 85% of the a top step officer’s hourly rate as set by the POA’s contract with the CIty. (This helped ensure that officers would be unlikely to not show for a regular shift with the City)

            You might remember the days when every bar in town that drew a crowd had uniformed SJPD officers working security???
            in the late 90’s, private security companies (like Atlas) lobbied the City Council to make law and SJPD to make policy to conform to the law that forbid Bars from employing uniformed officers. Private Security Companies felt that they were being unfairly excluded from getting their guards jobs at clubs.

            With the new laws Bars could really only hire security guards. The bars, used to professional police officers, were less than pleased with the product that the private companies were providing. The bars worked with the Downtown Association, City Council and SJPD to establish the “Entertainment Zone” where businesses and bars paid a fee that covered the cost (time and a half pay) for SJPD to provide security to the E-Zone on Thursday-Sunday Nights from 10pm unitl about 230AM.

            It was a hefty fee to go from 85% of an officers pay to 150% and the Bars didn’t like it but the law is the law sooooooo many of the club owners and the local media and the Downtown Association started a campaign that labeled the E-Zone as a an “occupied police state” and a place where SJPD was racially profiling good and honorable bar patrons and driving away business while charging the bars a premium price. SO the DT Association pressured SJPD to reduce the number of officers working the job and dictated the duties they wanted officers to perform which was to be invisible. Problems with unruly drunks persisted and the DT Association wanting more invisible officers in the area to respond to problems created the “Garage Paycar” to deal with crime in the parking garages.

            So in the case of your BAR – it is/was well outside the DT Association’s “Entertainment Zone” – not quite as far away as El Tarasco is away from “Downtown” but outside it none the less. That means that Bamboo 7 is at the mercy of an under staffed District Victor patrol district which on mids has officers.

            Back to SJPD Staffing in the Mid 2000’s Mayor Reed and his council and the SJPD collaborated on a study of staffing the SJPD. Without lots of boring “inside the bubble” information the study was Accepted by Reed and it concluded that SJPD (staffed at that time with about 1425 officers) needed to hire a minimum of 650 officers (bringing the total to about 2075) in order to adequately and safely staff the PD.

            Reed acknowledged that the City Budget could not support hiring 650 more officers but recognized that increasing staffing was critical for officers’ safety and for the safety of residents in the City. On that note, Reed and the council DID authorize “over hiring” on the budgeted staffing strength at that time by 25 officers (which is where the 1450 -actually 1457 number comes from)

            Then Reed got IBM to do a workplace efficiency study that concluded SJPD staffing was grossly overstaffed and strength should be reduced to 550 officers. The catch in that “free study” was that the City had to purchase a multi-million dollar software program that would deploy offices and manage their work habits.

            So what is the point? SJPD has always been understaffed and understaffing always creates delays especially in police work. Calls for service come in all the time but they aren’t dispatched on a first come first served basis , they are handled on a severity of the immediate situation basis.

        • I am my own source – I am Meyer Weed Inside the bubble . I know what I know and it doesn’t matter how I know it.

          Acquire this FREE knowledge I arm you with – don’t believe it – you shouldn’t ! I really don’t want you to. Do your duty as a citizen and challenge it – not with me but with the Mayor and the Council and the Downtown Association..

          • > I know what I know and it doesn’t matter how I know it.

            OK. Got it!

            Silly me. After thinking about it for ten seconds, it’s pretty obvious. Really smart people would probably get it in three or four seconds.

  6. 5 years of hell and Sam’s not gonna take it any more? Sam Liccardo – A man of inaction!

  7. Am I reading this right? The elected representative of a council district — the go-to guy for citizens with quality-of-life complaints, is claiming the high ground atop a pile of city inaction and five years of misery in one of his own neighborhoods? Wow! I guess in a city lacking a legitimate fourth estate presence a favored prince can say anything he wants. Small wonder Mr. Liccardo has turned empty seats in the police academy into personal acclaim.

    Sam Liccardo should be ashamed that, were it not for state intervention, the residents of his district would still be waiting for help, and would’ve had no legitimate hope of getting it. On his own, and with a police department he was instrumental in gutting, Mr. Liccardo apparently had nothing to offer his beleaguered constituents but the same old empty words and promises he’s been peddling for years. This neighborhood bar is a perfect example of what can’t be accomplished with what Sam Liccardo offers: slight of hand and a few slogans. That no neighborhood residents suffered serious assault is owed to nothing other than their own survival skills and blind luck. This city did nothing for them.

    But here you find the essence of the quality-of-life standard for city residents as prescribed by Reed and Liccardo: live in fear, suffer intimidation, reel in disgust, and cross your fingers for good luck and an outside agency.

    • Unfortunately, as a downtown homeowner, I feel the same way too many times. Thank you for keeping us informed.

  8. …and this mess is in District 3, liccardo’s district. How long has this been going on and how long has the community been suffering? Where was liccardo? He can’t even run his own district and he wants to run a whole city?

  9. We have a similar problem with a 24-hour 7-11 in our neighborhood, and have been fighting them for years. How can OUR neighborhood get some peace of mind, safety, and cleanliness?

    • Downtown Dweller,

      I assume you’ve been calling the police? Vote for someone other than Sam. Vote for someone other than Gagliardi and when that new person is in office, contact them regarding the issues.

  10. Mr Wall said something at Rules and Open Government about neighbors suing the city for lack of response or something along those lines. Some here are attorneys is this an option for homeowners renters etc.?

  11. Something about this piece has been nagging at me since it was published – I couldn’t remember a bar located at 14th and Mission St. Finally I had enough and drove out there – Nope – no bars at 14th and Mission, Oh, wait, its actually at 13th and Mission…. That’s what happens when reporters don’t check facts.

    (for anyone who is curious, the Google Street view photo in this piece – SJI has no cameras? – shows the view of the bar on the Mission Street side with N. 13th St to the right of the photo – don’t know about the date of the photo but there is no “El Tarasco” sign on the bar)

    Liccardo’s staffer prepared memo had the location right – I hope he relied on the memo if he went to survey the scene and not this piece.

    I spoke to a few neighbors and learned that their complaints have fallen on deaf ears for YEARS at the district 3 office of Sam Liccardo to the point where they started complaining to the County Supervisor Cindy Chavez. I understand that Supervisor Chavez took the time to go to 13th and Mission to tour the bar and meet with neighbors and the police who patrol the area.

    I wonder about the timing of Councilmember Liccardo’s staff prepared memo. Was it produced BEFORE or AFTER Supervisor Chavez’s visit in this Mayoral campaign season?

    What did he (Liccardo) know and when did he start caring about it?

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