Tijuana’s municipal police force recently began cracking down on the hours that bars can stay open. By law they should close at 2 a.m. and not open again until 10 a.m. 48 San Diego Reader March 25, 2010 These hours were routinely ignored or circumvented. Clubs that were willing to pay could stay open longer. If I recall correctly, this “pay to stay open longer” policy was implemented by a previous administration. Some clubs just ignored the rules completely and advertised that they were open 24 hours.
On the day that the raids took place, I was on my way to work and passed through la cahuila. The police were massed in front of the Hong Kong Bar and had both ends of the street blocked. If I’m not mistaken, the Hong Kong Bar often advertised in certain San Diego publications that they were open 24-7. A recent article in La Frontera said that many local business people favored the enforcement. They are entitled to their opinion, but so are the women who work in the clubs. Since nobody bothered to ask them, I figured somebody should.
Here is how the hour enforcement affects them. Since 2 a.m. to 10 a.m. is an eight-hour period, it’s basically a work shift. The women who work the clubs are paid a sueldo (daily pay). In most clubs, it’s about 80 pesos per shift. In order to qualify for their earnings they must check in with the gerente (manager), who jots down their name and time of arrival. After putting in an eight-hour shift, they “check out” and are paid their sueldo. They can also cash in their fichas at this time. The ficha is a percentage they receive from each beer that a customer buys from them.Most bars have a ficha scale.
Many women worked these hours, for various reasons. Some live in remote parts of the east side where bus routes (the cheapest form of transportation) stop around 11 p.m. and don’t start up until 5 or 6 the next morning. By working through these hours, they eliminate the need to either rent a room from the club or pay for an expensive taxi ride. These women make much less than the dancers and sex-service workers, yet they still must possess a valid worker’s ID. This is obtained from a medical clinic. The card must be renewed monthly, which is when the women are checked by the female doctors who work there. The ficheras, as they’re known, pay the same amount for their card as do the dancers and sex service workers. Other women work these hours because their husbands are employed on graveyard shifts and don’t know what their wives do.Many of these women are ficheras because they don’t have to strip or have sex. Then, most sad of all, there are those women who are addicted to drugs. I have noticed that meth is the preferred drug for many of these women. Like many drug addicts that I’ve known, they like to keep “vampire hours.”
Those that can have shifted their hours to the earlier time slots, a time when there are already other girls working the room. It means more ladies competing for fewer clients in fewer hours. At least one club manager I know of intends to take advantage of this situation by requiring the women to make five ficha instead of three to raise their base pay. Talk about kicking a person when they’re down!
What I can see happening is that as the women will become more desperate to pay their rent and feed their children, they will turn to other forms of making money…not all of them legal. My fellow Tijuanense RG has posted that he thinks the situation will eventually go back to how it’s always been. I know that many women working the clubs hope he’s right.