- J Michael Short
- Still known as SA's top joint for metal music, 210 Kapone's continues trying to find its footing nearly two months after its founder was murdered.
Above the bar at 210 Kapone's is a framed, black T-shirt featuring a picture of Pete Gonzales, smiling.
Above it, in a font reminiscent of "The Godfather," the shirt's lettering reads: "In Memory of Pete Gonzales."
It's a fitting memorial for the founder of 210 Kapone's, arguably the leading venue for SA's live metal scene, who seems as if to still be presiding over the premises — still running the show.
Gonzales, a budding entrepreneur, was allegedly shot twice by Faustino Vasquez outside the club on March 15, dying later that night at a local hospital. But his spirit still looms large at 210 Kapone's. The staff is trying to push past the tragedy and clean up the club's image.
"There's so much potential to bring new music here," LeRoy Botello, bar manager, said in an interview with the San Antonio Current at the club last week. "We want to make sure the community knows we're not a gangster spot."
The club sits on the eastern edge of downtown as it peters out into Dignowity Hill and the greater East Side. Though the club puts on special theme parties and DJ sets from time to time, it has solidified its reputation as a hub for SA's live metal scene.
"That's pretty much the place for metalheads in San Antonio," said Jay Nanda, an expert on the city's metal community and local freelance writer.
Nanda praised the club as a "comfortable place to rock," if a little rough around the edges.
"It's not in the safest neighborhood, it's not in the most comfortable part of town. But if you want to see a [metal] show, it's probably going to be over there," Nanda said. "It's been booking shows left and right."
Metal acts such as Queensryche, Saxon and Mastadon have all played at 210 Kapone's in the past two months.
But Botello wants to bring in bands beyond just the hard rock and metal acts for which the venue is known. He's reached out to a few Latin and EDM performers to expand the club's audience. In mid-May, 210 Kapone's hosted the children's music group School of Rock for two days for their Spring concert series.
There are also plans to stage a BMX and skateboard demonstration in the club's massive garage in July.
The plans are ambitious. But the venue apparently struggled in the aftermath of the murder.
Botello said he used to make over $300 in tips each shift behind the bar. It has slowed down significantly since the murder, to the tune of as little as $25 on some nights.
- J Michael Short
- A makeshift memorial outside 210 Kapone's following the death of owner Pete Gonzales
Botello, a San Antonio native, called Gonzales "a mentor." When Botello returned to SA after serving in the Army, Gonzales hired him to work the door at a few bars around town. Botello later become a bartender and has been loyal to Gonzales ever since.
"When the owner gets murdered, that's horrible [PR]," Botello said. "We took a hard hit. We were limping for a bit, but now we're pushing forward."
There are still some slow nights and the club isn't keeping its previous regular hours as listed on its website. Some staff members said that the venue is still in a state of transition.
Although 210 Kapone's didn't cancel a single concert in the wake of Gonzales' death, the staff has had to make some changes, particularly beefing up security during shows. That's also caused problems.
During a Mastodon show on May 5, multiple reports on social media claimed that off-duty police used pepper spray on moshing concert-goers. The club faced a virulent social media backlash afterwards and later put out a written statement, apologizing for the mishap.
"Rest assured that it is not the policy of 210 Kapone's to pepper spray our patrons. Our goal is to provide the best experience possible and to earn your loyalty with each show we host for you," the club posted on its Facebook page.
Meanwhile, the case of Gonzales' alleged murderer is slowly creeping toward resolution.
Vasquez, also known as Celestino Vasquez or "Kasper," allegedly murdered Gonzales in the early morning of Sunday, March 15.
Gonzales had Vasquez kicked out of the club for causing a disturbance in the VIP section, according to police. Vasquez, identified as a "known gang member" by San Antonio police, drove back to 210 Kapone's later that night.
Then, according to police, Vasquez fired three shots at Gonzales while the club owner was outside the building, standing on a sidewalk along Houston Street. Two of the shots from Vasquez's .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol hit Gonzales — one in the elbow, the other in the upper-right portion of his back.
Vasquez fled towards downtown and paramedics rushed Gonzales to San Antonio Military Medical Center. Doctors pronounced him dead just before 2:30 in the morning.
Cops arrested Vasquez four days later in Converse and charged him with Gonzales' murder. Vasquez, who was previously sentenced to seven years in prison for molesting a four-year-old girl, has been in Bexar County Jail ever since, awaiting trial on $150,000 bond.
Vasquez's case is in the process of transitioning from one district court to another. He will likely face trial within the next two to three weeks.
But at Kapone's, the focus is no longer on the random act of violence that ended Gonzales' life — it's honoring his vision by improving the venue.
"We're not going to let his memory die," Botello said. "We're going to keep going."