Faultline Bar owner Jorge Usatorres on rebranding a business, solid foundations and sobriety.
BY PAULO MURILLO | PHOTO BY DUSTI CUNNINGHAM
A little over a year ago a gay businessman by the name of Jorge Usatorres became the new owner of the legendary Faultline Bar in Los Angeles.
In an interview with THE FIGHT Usatorres talked about the challenges and the joys of rebranding and reinvigorating the bar, working with the community and his plans to possibly open an additional Faultline elsewhere in Southern California.
While all of the above definitely warrants an article in a local gay magazine—there is one little piece of information that makes this story very different than a standard business profile.
Jorge Usatorres is sober.
With over 14 years of continuous sobriety.
You got questions? So did we. We asked, Usatorres responded. Here’s the interview.
As a sober man—how did you decide to purchase a bar?
Well, I meditated and I prayed, which is my practice, and I really reflected to see what I’m directed to do. In my meditation—because my recovery is first and foremost—I had to make sure everything was spiritually sound. I’m not here to drink, I’m here to serve. What I got is that my investment in this thing was not about my not being able to handle it or not being able to stay sober, but it was about my contribution to the people who work here and people who come here to have a good time. Then I backed up a little and thought, OK, I’m good. I know I can handle the business—I’ve done it before. It was a healthy conversation that I had with myself through meditation, which settled all the questions and brought me clarity.
Why did you decide to get sober?
My sober date is January 29, 2001. I was empty in every way, shape and form. I was empty spiritually and emotionally. I wanted more out of me than I was getting from me. I decided that no matter how difficult—I needed to live a lovely sober life… I had something inside tell me that I was worth it. I believe that when you present something to the universe people show up. The universe is here to assist, conspire with and partner with you, is what I believe, and it’s been a lovely path.
Did you go to bars as a sober man before you acquired Faultline?
Yes. Being around alcohol is not an issue for me. I’m careful. I don’t play with it. At the beginning of my deciding to change my life and begin this recovery life, I had to do a significant amount of work to be clear, so that I was serious about living this healthy, spiritual, purposeful life.
How do you respond when people ask you why would a sober man want to own a bar?
Someone’s got to keep an eye on the crazies, I tell them, and they love it, and it’s true.
The fact that I’m sober and I don’t drink, or I’m in recovery—that whole idea—my way of life—would only be a problem if I wasn’t okay with it. It’s just like being gay. If I’m okay with me, people are okay with me.
Have you had any criticism or resistance from the recovery community after purchasing a bar?
Yes, to a degree, but if I am solid in where I stand. It’s like building a house…you better have a solid foundation. When somebody says something negative, I have to look at where they’re coming from…
There is nothing wrong with people having a great time and having a drink. I just don’t. And I can have a great time being around others who do. I can see those people who may need some help, and I am here for them and will offer help if necessary. I am here to keep an eye on those that may get off base and I make it a point step in and give them a bottle of water. I spend a lot of money giving away water. My staff is instructed to slow someone down who is a little off and offer them water and sit them down and tell them to relax. You’ve had a little too much to drink. Have some water. Take a breath. On us. That’s a policy here.
What do you do when you see a person order a beer who you know has been sober for a number of years?
It’s happened a lot. People are human. Their reasons for drinking are none of my business, but usually I come and ask how they are, because it’s not about the drink—the drink is a result of whatever is happening that’s leading to that drink. You may need to talk and I may be able to talk you out of that first drink, but if you choose to drink, I am no one to deny you your spiritual path. That drink may be what you need to get you to make a decision that drinking isn’t the way you want to live. I will acknowledge that you’re there. I will never shame you, because it is none of my business. What is my business is to give you support and know that you have somebody here.
How would you describe the Faultline patron?
This place is all about community. We have every demographic regardless of age, whether it’s transgender, bear or twink—it is really where all roads intersect and it’s comfortable —where you can just feel free and enjoy yourself.
Are you happy being the owner of the Faultline Bar?
I’m very happy. I love the challenge of rebranding this place and getting it up to a place that’s been reinvigorated. It’s powerful. It’s a name to be reckoned with. I saw a possibility for this brand to continue to live on past the 21 and-a-half years that it has and give the gay community a lovely experience. I believe that because I’m so driven, there must be something around the corner that I can bring to the community. I’m excited on either another Faultline in San Diego, Long Beach, Palm Springs…you never know. I let the universe dictate and I’ll have a great time.