OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Black market bars are popping up all over the Bay Area and growing in popularity, selling drinks spiked with vodka, gin and tequila.
One of these bars called Summer Coolers in Oakland had 6,400 followers on Instagram. It looks like any other house on the block, but inside police say it’s the modern day version of a speakeasy, selling drinks also called summer coolers.
It’s appointment only, on Instagram or Facebook. You have to direct message them, place your order, tell them when you want it, and they tell you where to go.
After ordering four vodka coolers, a KPIX 5 crew drove over to pick them up at an address on Mcintyre street in East Oakland, and our production assistant was sent in. Minutes later, she came out carrying 4 mason jars filled to the brim.
And these are no Shirley Temples. Under all the candies each jar is full of Ciroc Vodka. We tasted them, before pouring them out. You need a license to sell alcohol. But we checked, and the house on McIntyre Street doesn’t have one.
Yet our production assistant told us the residents inside serving up the drinks didn’t seem at all uncomfortable. “I mean they definitely looked at me from back in the kitchen but it looked like they were just running a business,” she said. And she said no one asked her age or checked ID.
After KPIX 5 told police, they took action, and took us with them to check the place out. Cited with a misdemeanor was 49-year-old Deirdre Sibley. Her mom told us it’s all a big mistake.
“We don’t sell alcohol in our summer coolers, our summer coolers are complete fruit candy juice,” she said. And when we asked her why the police would be there she said she was “trying to figure that out myself.”
But police disagree. “People were coming up to this home, ordering alcohol and the drinks were leaving the house. The place is not licensed,” said John Carr with the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control. His agency assisted in the operation.
“It’s real quality of life issues, because it disturbs the quiet enjoyment of a neighborhood,” Carr told KPIX 5. But he admits ABC is too busy monitoring the licensed establishments to be able to crack down on the unlicensed ones.
That concerns Jody Iorns with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. “With the candies and the gummy worms and the bright colors it seems to be very much targeted to the youthful drinker,” she said.
Post all that on Instagram, and she says you have a recipe for disaster. “With the explosion in social media I think that it is an environment that we have to take a really good look at to make sure that our communities and our roadways stay safe,” she said.
Following the police sting the summer coolers Instagram site has undergone a magical transformation. It now features tons of little kids drinking coolers and smiling.