Polk Street Bar Manager Responds to ABC Accusations

The manager of a Polk Street bar in San Francisco responded this afternoon to accusations from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which suspended the bar’s liquor license for 30 days.

The ABC contends that during a three-month investigation of the Playland bar at 1351 Polk St., 30-year-old San Francisco resident Gabriel Rizzo, a bar employee, negotiated the sale of marijuana and cocaine to undercover agents. The ABC also alleged that Playland’s management “permitted” these drug sales to take place on the premises.

Reuben Wartens, Playland’s general manager, said that’s not true.

“We’re not involved in any way in what was occurring, and there’s no charges being pressed against us,” Wartens said.

“We allowed that person to work at our venue, but that’s the only thing we did,” he added. “We had no knowledge of what he was doing.”

Wartens said Rizzo was working as a bar-back, a position that typically assists bartenders by re-supplying anything they might need to serve drinks.

He said he hasn’t seen Rizzo since ABC agents raided the bar as part of the investigation.

“That employee no longer works for us,” Wartens said. “He’s disappeared and we haven’t heard from him.”

Playland’s website, www.playlandbar.com, indicates that the venue is closed until March 3 for a “remodel,” and Wartens confirmed that is not coincidental.

“We figured this would be a good time to fix up some things to make it nice and new for the people that have been supporting us over the years,” he said.

ABC spokesman John Carr said Wednesday that the undercover investigation at Playland ran from March through June 2014, after which the case was forwarded to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office for further review.

A warrant was issued for Rizzo’s arrest in September, according to Carr.

Dave Brooksher, Bay City News

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