Today, Don Juan’s restaurant in Mount Pleasant will make its case before the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board that it deserves to have live music and dancing reinstated, just as Don Jaime’s and Haydee’s did last week.
Don Juan’s is a different animal than the other two, and so its case will be harder to make. Over the years it has gained notoriety as a haven for drunk Latino men, getting drunker by the hour.
But Don Juan’s owner, Alberto Ferrufino, has taken extraordinary steps over the last year to change his restaurant’s image. Working with Hear Mount Pleasant, the neighborhood group working to overturn the live music ban, Ferrufino has spent thousands of dollars to install double-paned windows, a new roof, and soundproof insulation. After firing three DJs for refusing to turn the music down, he eliminated the problem by getting a new jukebox with smaller speakers and putting a limiter on it so it can’t get too loud.
The ABC Board requires yearly trainings for bar managers in responsible alcohol management, but for the last decade Don Juan’s has been sending its entire staff to the trainings. And recently, they’ve contracted with a well-known consultant from the Responsible Hospitality Institute to provide much more intensive training on responsible alcohol service and security.
Several neighbors have been making a concerted effort to bring families with children to Don Juan’s on a regular basis, trying to change the all-male composition of its clientele to be more family-friendly. After all, with the wave of gentrification in Mount Pleasant and the recent fire which effectively evicted 200 Latino residents from the neighborhood, Don Juan’s needs to expand its client base in order to survive.
I livedirectly behind Don Juan’s, and while I’m a big fan of their tamales, I usually get them to go because I don’t like being the only woman in there. I also didn’t like having a drunk guy pass out on my feet on a Sunday afternoon in there a few years ago. But I’ve got to hand it to Don Juan’s for cleaning up its act and making an effort to engage the community. I’ve been a supporter of Hear Mount Pleasant since their inception – I’ve even got their silk-screened “Bring Back Live Music” sign in front of my house – and I think they’ve done a great job listening to the community’s concerns and working with Don Juan’s to address them.
And as for live music, as far as I can tell men don’t like to dance alone, so more music will mean more women, and that can only be good for the place. We’ll see if the ABC Board agrees.