"We open at 2:00 every afternoon," says Morena Club owner Steve Billings. "But sometimes the bartender lets in regulars a few minutes earlier."
The front door was open at about 1:45 p.m. on Sunday, August 5, when "A stocky Latino man, about 5'10", 200 pounds, walked in with a hooded black sweat shirt.... He shut the front door. We never have the front door shut during the day. The bartender knew something was wrong and started to call 911. He reached into his backpack and pulled out a gun. He took her into the men's bathroom and zip-tied her to the handicapped rails. He asked her for the code to the safe and she told him she didn't know it. But he knew where the office was. And even though it's hard to believe, he knew what the [safe] code was."
Billings won't disclose how much was taken from the safe.
"[The bartender] wiggled free and went across the street to O'Connell's to call the police." Billings says police have leads but have not made an arrest.
"I had nine cameras installed the next day. Now, every day we open with a minimum of two people."
How did the thief get into the safe?
"I know it could have been an inside job, but I doubt it. It could have been that the safe was left open from the night before. I heard that there is a generic brand of safes you get at Costco where if you know the default code you can open all the safes."
Not because of the crime, Billings has bought and is remodeling the old site of Buster Daley's in North Park, where he intends to bring bands. (He replaced bands with DJs at the Morena Club two years ago.)
"It seems like everybody and their grandmother is opening a cocktail lounge with DJs. I see live music coming back.... The nearest bar [in North Park] is Scolari's Office, which is very small, very loud.... I need to fill a bigger bar." That bar -- scheduled to open September 7 -- will be named U-31.
On Wednesdays, the Morena Club hosts a Tribe of Kings, DJs who spin reggae.