Lead Story West Edition

Neighborhood nuisance bar is closed

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — A neighborhood bar that has become a community nuisance has been closed by the city, but the bar manager is vowing to fight the closure.

After nearly a decade of criminal activity and complaints from neighbors, the City Council Sept. 10 revoked the conditional use permit for El Arroyo Bar at 7026 S. Broadway. Without the conditional use permit, the bar can no longer sell alcohol.

“El Arroyo Bar has robbed people in the community of peace of mind,” City Councilman Curren Price said Nov. 10 during a press conference to announce the closing of the bar.

The city claims that the bar has consistently failed to meet most of the conditions imposed upon it in 2009 in order for the business to sell liquor. Police say the bar was a hotbed of illegal activity ranging from extortion and narcotics to public intoxication and prostitution.

Marcelo Barrales, El Arroyo’s manager, said the police claims are false.

“Every time the police show up, they never find anything,” Barrales said through a translator, his daughter, Jessica Barrales. “They never find drugs, and there isn’t fighting.”

Barrales said the case is still ongoing, and that the bar has hired a lawyer to fight the closure. He claims that the city has not allowed the lawyers for El Arroyo to speak in the past.

The owners of the bar have appeared before the city seven times in the past 11 years for condition compliance review.

Barrales said that there are two other bars nearby, but that the city and police have been “bugging him the most.”

City Councilman Curren Price conducted a press conference outside the El Arroyo Bar Nov. 10 announcing the city’s plans to close what he called a neighborhood nuisance. (Photo by Anne Artley)
City Councilman Curren Price conducted a press conference outside the El Arroyo Bar Nov. 10 announcing the city’s plans to close what he called a neighborhood nuisance. (Photo by Anne Artley)

Neighborhood residents expressed concern for the students of the nearby Bethune Middle School (about a block away from the bar), who would have to walk past the urine, feces and condoms often found on the sidewalk outside the establishment.

“Kids don’t cross on that side of the street,” said Cathy Simpson, a member of the Community and Neighbors for Ninth District Unity Neighborhood Council that has worked toward shuttering the bar. “Moms are actively encouraging their kids to go around the bar.”

El Arroyo Bar employed “bar girls” or “ficheras” to sit with patrons and encourage purchase of alcohol. The city claims El Arroyo Bar often served alcohol until 5 a.m. when California liquor laws prohibit the sale of alcohol after 2 a.m.

“[Bar patrons] would be cussing and throwing beer bottles outside,” Simpson said. “Meanwhile, people have jobs they have to go to in the morning to make a living.”

Since 2009, when the City Attorney’s Office designated the bar as problematic, the Los Angeles Police Department has recorded more than 50 ongoing violations of state and local laws, including the Penal Code, Business and Professions Code, Health and Safety Code, Insurance Code, and the Los Angeles Municipal Code.

Justin Fuller, a senior lead officer assigned to the Newton Division of LAPD, said that his unit has received 40 service calls for El Arroyo Bar since 2009, a high number for a business with so few hours of operation.

“We hardly hear anything about the [nearby] Jack-In-A Box, and that place is open 24 hours,” Fuller said.

During the press conference, Councilman Price made it clear that he supports the growth of local businesses.

“The Ninth District is open for business,” he said. “Just not business as usual.”