A story broke over the weekend that was initially characterized as another anti-Asian attack, this time outside a famed North Beach bar, with a victim who was 18 years old. But following a police investigation of the incident, it seems to have been more of an interpersonal conflict between a regular patron of the bar and an underage man who refused to move when asked by the bar's owner.
The incident happened outside Gino & Carlo Cocktail Lounge on Green Street around 5:30 p.m. Friday. The victim's father, Jan Enguillado, told the Chronicle that he had instructed his son C.J. to sit and wait in Gino & Carlo's outdoor seating area while the rest of the family picked up a pizza from a nearby restaurant (likely Golden Boy next door). Frank Rossi, the owner of Gino & Carlo, came outside and told the 18-year-old he needed to leave the parklet area after determining he was not 21 — and therefore not permitted under ABC regulations to be on the bar's property, let alone taking up space on a busy Friday.
"I told him, 'You cannot be here, you have to leave now,'" Rossi said, speaking to the Chronicle.
Not long after, a regular patron of Gino & Carlo, retired heavyweight boxer Pat Lawlor, once known as the "Pride of the Sunset" — whose career ended with a June 2017 fight at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium — apparently decided to intervene. Lawlor allegedly punched the 18-year-old, and Rossi said he tried to intervene on the kid's behalf.
"He was being obstinate, but he did not deserve to get punched," Rossi told the Chronicle.
Police were called to the scene and Lawlor, 57, was arrested and cited for misdemeanor battery, as the Chronicle reports.
C.J. Enguillado's mother, Sofia Enguillado, posted a TikTok video that went viral showing her son's bruises, and alleging that he was the victim of anti-Asian assault, because he is Filipino. The caption on the video said, "If you’re Asian, this is the type of service you get waiting for pizza in Little Italy North Beach, San Francisco." Subsequently, Gino & Carlo's Yelp page was flooded with negative reviews, and Rossi says that he's received death threats.
The Enguillados were reportedly visiting San Francisco for Easter weekend, and C.J. Enguillado tells KPIX that he refused to get out of the seat outside the bar because his parents had told him not to move, even though he acknowledged that Rossi had asked him multiple times to move — and he says he was "traumatized" by the tone of Rossi's command and what he perceived to be a racist element to it.
"By the way it sounded, he said, ‘Get the f— out of here, you don’t belong here,” that’s what he said, and I cannot forget those words," he said. "That’s, like, traumatizing to me."
Jan Enguillado had said something similar in an interview with the Chronicle, saying, "When you say that to a person of Asian descent, with everything that is going on, how do you think people will perceive it? It’s the way you say it, the manner, the tone."
"I am not a racist," Rossi said, speaking to the Chronicle. "We have been in the area 60 years, alongside Chinatown. We have a melting pot of customers."
Rossi added, speaking to KPIX, "In fact I kick people out of my bar, when they say racist things." He also said he "went nuts" after Lawlor punched the kid, and it was uncalled for.
SFPD officers said they found no evidence that Lawlor's punching of the 18-year-old was motivated by hate. And Lawlor has yet to publicly comment on the incident.
Nelson Lum, a retired SFPD sergeant and member of the SF Asian Police Officers Association, spoke out in support of Rossi and the bar in an interview with KPIX. He said the bar had long had a welcoming reputation for people of all kinds, and he said, "False accusation is something that we must all [rally] against, because if we start crying wolf on everything then when the real situation takes place, there will be a lot less merit."
Photo: Justin M./Yelp