Lancaster women accused of operating after-hours speakeasy out of Mexican restaurant

LANCASTER — Two Lancaster women are accused of illegally operating a nightclub out of a Mexican restaurant in downtown Lancaster, according to a criminal complaint.

Sonia Rodriguez, 52, of the 700 block of Euclid Avenue, and Emily Bermudez-Figuroa, 40, of the 200 block of West King Street, are both charged with selling liquor without a license and selling malt or brewed beverages without a license, according to State Police. They allegedly were running a nightclub at House of Tacos on 245 W. King Street.

The State Police Bureau of Liquor Control began investigating the business after receiving an anonymous complaint in March. The caller said the House of Tacos was operating as a restaurant by day and an after hours speakeasy on Saturday nights. The caller said they had visited the restaurant on a Saturday night and discovered the business was selling mixed drinks and beer, and said they didn’t think the restaurant had a liquor license.

According to the criminal complaint, between April 5 and May 17, police made several visits to the restaurant during normal business hours and ordered food. Officers spoke to the owner, identified as Rodriguez, and determined she was the main person in charge of the business. They also conducted outside surveillance.

On July 2, shortly after midnight, officers visited the House of Tacos. They discovered the restaurant’s rear doors were open, and loud music was playing. They observed about 20 people in the building, some of whom were dancing to the music, which was being amplified by DJ speakers and enhanced by a lighting system. Police ordered beer from a woman, later identified as Bermudez-Figueroa, who was working as a bartender.

Moments later, the criminal complaint states, Rodriguez approached the officer and said the establishment was BYOB. When the officer left the building, an unidentified male told him the club was for members only.

On August 27, police visited the building again, according to the criminal complaint. They observed several patrons standing at the rear door and could hear loud music again. When they entered the building, they were told they had to pay a $10 cover charge. They paid the charge, and later purchased beer and shots of whiskey from Bermudez-Figueroa, who was once again acting as a bartender. All sales were conducted within view of Rodriguez, according to the criminal complaint.

On August 28, the state Liquor Control Board confirmed that House of Tacos did not have a liquor License. On August 31, police served a search warrant at the business and seized items related to alcohol sales. Rodriguez and Bermudez-Figueroa were present at the time, but refused to answer questions regarding the sales of alcohol without a license.

Both were sent summons regarding the charges, according to the criminal complaint.