Matt Potter 9:27 a.m., May 20
Tijuana's municipal police force recently began cracking down on the hours that bars can stay open. By law, they should close at two am and not open again until ten am. 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 twenty-four 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 twenty four-seven. A recent article in La Frontera said that many local business people favored the enforcement. They are entitled to their opinions 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 two am to ten am 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 eighty 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 fichas are the percentage they receive from each beer that a customer buys them. Most bars have a ficha scale. For instance, if you make three fichas in one night your sueldo increases to one hundred and twenty pesos. Many women worked during these hours. For various reasons. Some live in remote parts of the eastside where bus routes (the cheapest form of transportation) stop around eleven pm and don't start up until five or six 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. Renting a room from the club or paying a taxi is especially tough on the ficheras. These women, as opposed to the dancers and sex service workers usually make much less per night. Yet they still must possess a valid workers ID. This is obtained from a medical clinic one block over. The card must be renewed monthly, which is when the women are checked by the female doctors who work there. The ficheras 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 sadly 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.' So the reasons that these women work during those hours vary but the result is the same. 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 less hours. At least one club manager that I was told about intends to take advantage of this situation by requiring the women to make five fichas instead of three to raise their base pay(sueldo). Talk about kicking a person when they're down! What I can see happening is that as the women become more desperate to pay their rents 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. Coffee's Ready Gotta Go!!!