Customers who stop in for a beer at Cesar's Place in San Fernando are being greeted these days by two uniformed security guards.
The owners of the beer hall, Virginia and Cesar Valdez of North Hollywood, are paying that price to stay in business until a Los Angeles Superior Court judge decides the fate of the establishment after a hearing March 26.
The couple's place would not be open now without the court's help. On Feb. 18, the San Fernando City Council revoked their beer permit, citing complaints of shootings, thefts, assaults and public drunkenness at the 1st Street location.
But they went to court three days later and won a ruling allowing them to continue to sell beer until the hearing on whether the city acted properly in revoking the permit. The court order, however, said that Cesar's Place must employ one security guard during the day and two after 6 p.m.
Valdez said he doesn't open the business now until 6 p.m. because of the requirement. "I can't afford it," he said of the day trade. "There's not enough business."
Even if he wins his suit with the city, Valdez said, Cesar's Palace will not stay open long. Its lease expires in July, and he will close the place then, he said.
"I would hope that we could reach some kind of compromise so that I could finish the remainder of my lease," Valdez said.
The Valdezes' suit complains that they were not informed of police allegations before the city's Feb. 3 public hearing on their license revocation and that police presented false information during that proceeding. Police said activity at the bar was reminiscent of the "cowboy West."
Will Produce Evidence
Valdez said he will produce the man who police testified was hit by a car outside the bar and later died of the injuries.
"We're going to produce the bona fide body they said was dead," he said. "I would like to see the city refute that."
Lt. Don Rivetti, acting San Fernando police chief, said police learned that the injured man did survive the accident. But that incident was only one of more than 30 serious complaints that police have handled at the bar in the last year, Rivetti said.
The case has been controversial in San Fernando, in part because Valdez maintained that problems at his "Latino bar" resulted from a clash of cultures among patrons from different Latin American countries.
Councilman Jess Margarito and Detective Ernest Halcon, both Latinos, reacted angrily to the suggestion the violence could be explained by Latino culture.