“They came in like Nazis and chased everybody out. They turned the place upside down looking for something. They had dogs and everything.”
1527 East Mission Avenue, Oceanside
Susana Perez was at the Show Palace in Oceanside on Friday, October 26, when she said state, federal, and local agents staged a raid on the concert venue. Latin Grammy Award–winning singer Alejandra Guzman (hyped as Mexico’s “Queen of Rock”) was preparing to headline a show that night when the officials paid a surprise visit.
“It was eight o’clock. They came in and told everybody who was eating to just get up and leave. They told all the employees to meet in the restaurant.” Perez says agents from the DEA, state Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), the state Employment Development Department (EDD), and Oceanside police were there to investigate.
“They were looking behind desks and under sofa cushions. They apparently didn’t find anything. Then, at about 10:30, they just said, ‘Never mind,’ and let everybody back in as if nothing had happened. Can you imagine how much money they wasted on this raid?”
Perez says the place then filled up as more than 1000 mostly well-dressed fans paid $46 to see Guzman perform.
Latin artists have frequented the Show Palace for 12 years. On the preceding Friday, Bay Area rapper E40 played to a sold-out (1200-plus) crowd, demonstrating the Show Palace’s emergence as a multigenre venue.
Local ABC administrator Melissa Ryan admitted her crew was part of the raid, but she said that until her department takes official action she could not go into specifics.
But an insider explains that ABC agents were most likely trying to bust the Show Palace for violating its 50/50 commitment to have at least 50 percent of its total sales in food, as required by its Type 47 license as a restaurant. The insider says the state EDD was there because the Show Palace was allegedly paying employees under the table.
Ryan says she had to meet with owner Juan Cortes before she would issue a notice of violation, which could include a suspension or revocation of the liquor license.
“They showed no respect,” Perez says of the agents. “This place is trying to raise the bar for entertainment and take it to the next level, and they are just destroying that business by destroying its reputation. [Cortes] took a dinosaur that had been mismanaged and turned it around.”
Cortes did not want to respond to questions about the raid.
While Ryan would not get specific, she did defend the ABC’s role in forcing “restaurants” with a 47 license to sell at least 50 percent in food. “[Cortes] knew the nature of the license when he bought it,” she explains. I noted that it seemed facetious to expect a place like the Show Palace to sell 50 percent in food. “Then he can try to purchase a different license.” That different license would be a Type 48, which would allow the sale of liquor with no food stipulations. Those licenses cost between $45,000 and $80,000. Oceanside officials have stated they would not be apt to approve any more 48 licenses in town.
“The 50/50 rule is a joke,” says one insider with knowledge of ABC rules. “It is arbitrary bullshit with unequal enforcement. I’ll bet you no one has looked to see if the Roxy [in West Hollywood] is compliant with its 50/50 in 20 years. Two years ago in San Francisco, the ABC was going after all these great theater venues, like Slim’s, trying to close them down and then elected officials got involved and got the ABC to back down.”
While not directly addressing the unfair enforcement, Ryan did say, “We are complaint-based. We have to act when it becomes clear a licensee is brazenly breaking the law.”
Local DEA spokeswoman Amy Roderick said via telephone that her department did not participate in the raid.