In March, longtime DJ Mike Soul announced that he'd become general manager at Heat nightclub on Fifth Avenue. Soul promised to expand the Gaslamp's cultural reach by bringing Latin bands and dance music to the 275-capacity venue on weekends. ("Thirty percent of San Diegans are Latino," Soul said. "There are 50 venues downtown, and only one offers Latin music.")
Six months later, Soul and Heat parted company. The club now hosts DJs three nights a week, but the Latin emphasis is gone. Soul would not speak on the record, but a person formerly involved in the club's management explains what happened:
"There are people who think that because they have thrown [dance night] promotions and have a name in the Gaslamp that they can run a restaurant regardless of their abilities. Mike Soul is one of those.... It was noble of him, but he forgot a few crucial points; like, the typical Gaslamp bargoer is an SDSU student or someone older who is not of Mexican descent. The actual reach of Latin music down here was far less than what he anticipated."
The source says Heat has bigger problems: the club is "under audit" by the state bureau of alcohol beverage control for not fulfilling its agreement to achieve equal sales of food and alcohol. Another source confirms the ABC staged an "audit without an appointment" in June.
"The original concept of this place was as a high-end restaurant," says the source. "That's how a lot of places here in the Gaslamp get their permits [for alcohol and entertainment]; they tell the City they want to sell food first and have entertainment second. The reality is they want to sell Grey Goose and Red Bull all night.... I know one place that orders food just to show the ABC they have receipts and then they send the food to Tijuana."
The source says Heat used to have a quality café.
Matthew Hydar, an enforcement supervisor for the ABC, confirms that there is an ongoing investigation involving Heat. "This is nothing abnormal." He says attorneys for other Gaslamp establishments involved in food-to-alcohol sales audits have complained that their clients have been singled out. "They ask why we don't go after everyone. I tell them if we had the manpower, we would.... We respond as we get complaints."
Soul brings his Azucar night to Dolce in Bonita tomorrow night.