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Mission Implacable 

Peter Glikshtern used a tire iron on four interlopers in his Mission District bar. Then he beat their lawyer's attempt to make the fight a political caues.

Wednesday, Jul 5 2000

Page 4 of 4

"[The same can be said for] any number of ridiculously wealthy Latino entertainers. Your logic borders on absurd," Glikshtern shot back. "Any immigrant who comes to this country with no money or language skills has the odds stacked against them. That includes people from Eastern Europe. I am one of the boat people. Take a good, hard look in the mirror and tell me who the racist here might be."

He wasn't done: "If I hadn't moved in on that block, no one else would've either. Viva la raza, smart guy, but what the fuck does an empty store front do for the neighborhood? Do you feel like an asshole yet?"

"I built that place with my own hands, sweat, and blood (having literally been jumped a few times down there on Capp)," Glikshtern wrote in another e-mail. "Now I am the bad guy? A cancer to the neighborhood? Why? Because I've made that hole in the wall into something that gets equal billing with Mecca and the Red Room on the glossy pages of Travel & Leisure? Seems a little twisted to me."

A rally staged by Ramirez before the April trial failed to draw the substantial crowds the attorney had hoped to attract. Glikshtern had been successful diffusing the outrage, and when the New Mission News sided with the bar owner, Ramirez's case looked even weaker. The extensive denunciation of the lawsuit from a neighborhood paper that routinely lambastes the negative impacts of gentrification -- "Comforting the Afflicted and Afflicting the Comfortable" is its slogan -- was clearly a blow to any momentum Ramirez had hoped to achieve. "He seemed disappointed we didn't mindlessly rally to the cause, but his case was no good," says the newspaper's editor, Victor Miller. "It was blown up into a major civil rights issue, which trivializes real issues with real impact. Guys in a bar fight is not one of them."

Miller serves on the board of the Mis-sion Merchants Association, of which Glikshtern is president. The group is a loose band of members with their own interests, and Miller says he isn't particularly close to Glikshtern nor does he consider the bar owner an ally -- just the victim of a misguided, politically charged lawsuit.

"It takes a lot of energy to deal with the forces of gentrification, and this drains it," Miller says. "Instead of finding convenient villains, we should be concentrating on the amorphous developers who want to stick office buildings on residential blocks, and actually kick people out of their homes. All Glikshtern ever displaced was a bunch of old drunks and junkies. Is that so harmful a change?"

Miller sees Ramirez as a political opportunist. "You can't just squeeze what happened into the gentrification template, and then try to manipulate people to rally around the cause because you know what their fears are," he says. "It insults their intelligence."

Though a businessman by day, Glikshtern still enjoys the club scene at night. He lives the culture he sells, and hates to see the art and hipness of it all tainted by supply and demand. On Saturday nights he won't even go to his own bar anymore. Liquid, he says, has become too popular. That's the problem with creating something cool: Once the masses catch on, it's not anymore. The infusion of boorish, aging fraternity guys is cramping his sense of style. He complains that they are loud, get too drunk, and pee in the street. And worse, they don't know good music, aren't original, and certainly aren't hip. "I wanted to create a happening scene without the knuckleheads catching on, but that's hard to do," Glikshtern says. "What I don't want is the place to become the Marina. It's not good for me if the neighborhood gets too white-bread; people will find a new hip place to slum in."

But he isn't about to close his bar down because he doesn't like who chooses to drink there. Besides, Latinos do regularly frequent Liquid during the week, and on Monday nights, the bar is almost entirely gay. "If anything gets rid of a lame crowd, it's a gay crowd," he notes. The idea that Ramirez tried to say he was exclusionary and a racist appalls Glikshtern. "Not all of the bars around here are as diverse as mine," he says. "Ramirez would've had a better shot doing this to someone else."

Glikshtern's refusal to be intimidated by Ramirez's efforts to turn the politically correct, anti-gentrification forces of mob rule against him has, at the same time, only strengthened his commitment to his business. Though settling seemed like an attractive escape to the whole mess, Glikshtern would not give in. "I don't think it is right to just lay down and fold to this sort of thing. My integrity is important to me," he says. "If Ramirez would've sued only for beating those guys up, maybe I would've paid. But he was accusing me with all kinds of shit that had nothing to do with it."

The notion that the Mission should be home only to underpaid artists, bohemians, and immigrants escapes Glikshtern. The way he sees it, being an entrepreneur is no crime. "Was there a sense of me trying to be a pioneer? Yes," he says. "I saw the potential. But I never thought of the social-economic ramifications. I just wanted to make a living."

About The Author

Joel P. Engardio


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