There was a time when Cesar’s Latin Palace was the city’s salsa destination. The club hosted musicians like Hector Lavoe, Celia Cruz, Willie Colon, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto, and New York’s Orquesta Broadway. Opened in 1977 and located at 3140 Mission Street, the club was a place you could hear legendary musicians, stop in for dance lessons, or just spend your weekend nights dancing beside both your neighbors and the city’s power brokers (club owner Cesar Ascarrunz told Chuy Varela of SFGate that Bill Graham was not only a frequent visitor but also, a great dancer). The club was shut down by the city in 1991 for liquor license violations. Roccapulco nightclub now occupies the space.
Perhaps even more well-known that the Mission neighborhood club is its owner – Cesar Ascarrunz, who arrived in the Bay Area in 1960 (first in San Jose and then eventually in San Francisco) in order to attend UC Berkeley and stayed, transforming from musician, to club owner, to politician and to community leader. He ran for mayor several times in the 1990s and as recently as 2011.
Check out Matt Smith’s piece in SF Weekly for a glimpse into Cesar Ascarrunz’s political life and the below photo of the man himself (photo is taken from a handout, per the San Francisco Chronicle).