End of "Trauma" and 18+ Nights at El Rincon
It seems the club was overdue for some changes. Last December, the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control cited the venue for having two minors with alcohol. El Rincon paid a $1,900 fine in April to avoid a two-week suspension of its liquor license. At some point, there was a stabbing in the bathroom, written up in a Yelp review, which was confirmed by both the owner and one of the new managers.
Last month two new managers took over the bar, with marching orders to clean the place up. Talking to the SF Weekly, Wayne Wolfe and Brian Masterson said that means clamping down on ID checks, bringing in more security, contracting with more responsible promoters, painting over the graffiti-laden walls, and making events 21-and-up.
The bar's owner, Vimla (who doesn't want her last name printed) said that the host of the 18-and-up party "Trauma" didn't want to pay the fee for additional security that the new managers require -- $100 each for two guards, she said. We contacted the night's host, the Doctor, by e-mail Wednesday, but haven't heard back.
Wolfe wouldn't go into details, but said, "It's drum and bass's choice whether they want to be here or not." So tonight will be the final "Trauma" event, with the bar paying for the security, Masterson says. "If they don't pay security we have to end up having to pay to clean up the place... I don't think it's an unreasonable request."
One of the DJs of the event posted on an Internet message board that the new managers were "ABC-approved," "to help run the place until the changes are made and ABC can get out of their hair." ABC's spokesperson John Carr says that the ABC regularly fingerprints and runs background checks on owners and managers of business with liquor licenses, but doesn't actually appoint staff to venues.
If the drum-and-bass fans who frequented the night are angry about the end of "Trauma," it won't be the only change that has gotten some resistance. The managers say enforcing the club's new rules - like no smoking inside as mandated by city law - haven't gone over well with long-time patrons used to being able to do that. The changes have been slow to take. After the club painted over the graffiti on the walls, the walls of the men's bathroom were re-tagged on a recent night.
"We're taking over a place where people are used to a certain way for a long time," Wolfe says.
The new managers are an unlikely duo: Wolfe is a bald and muscly Mr. T-like dude with gold hoop earrings who works as a trainer at World's Gym. His partner Masterson could play a frat boy in a campus flick, with an argyle sweater and tousled blonde hair. Yet the two say they've worked together before -- they wouldn't say where -- and Masterson said they're hoping to bring the same "successful business model" to El Rincon.
They sat with the owner in the empty club Wednesday night and talked about their plans to make the bar "legitimate," Masterson said. They hope to be open for restaurant business Saturday. They want to attract a professional happy hour clientele from neighborhoods like SoMA and Mission Bay to the desolate corner of 16th Street and Harrison. They're planning a benefit for a school in the Bayview. "We're not trying to come in and be jerks about this," Masterson says. "If we have a facility we can do good for the community as well as make the venue survive." He added that adults aren't attracted to 18-and-up venues.
And, of course, 18-and-up nights aren't as profitable since under-21 folks can't buy booze. That would seem to conflict with another one of the goals of the new managers: to make some money.
"You come in and we're trying to make the business grow and make some revenue for the business," Wolfe says. "It's either you want to comply to the changes or you leave."
And so goes another 18-and-up option for San Francisco nightlife, too.