Located in the Golden Triangle of Via Veneto, Via Argentina and Via España, bar La Terraza has gained popularity among tourists as a place to hang out. Wedged between the Veneto Hotel and Via Argentina and across the street from El Pomodoro, it has become a favorite watering hole for everything wearing shorts and Hawaii shirts. But looks deceive. La Terraza is subject of an avalanche of official complaints ranging from unsanitary kitchen practices to employing illegal aliens, while widespread allegations have it that cheating customers is the rule rather than the exception.
La Terraza is owned by one "Mike from Texas," who bought the place from its former owner, one "Lissi from Colombia." Lissi continued to work for Mike as a waitress, and has caused many customers to complain about overcharging, watering down premium drinks, and padding the bills claiming customers drank more than they actually did.
Steve Heintz is member of the Executive Commitee of "PanaMen Expatriates", described as a "secular, Non-Profit, Men-Only Association." They used to get together at La Terraza, but members started to complain. Wrote Heintz:
I have been advised by several of our membership that our (formerly) favorite place to meet has been purposely overcharging and serving premium drinks that are diluted.
It has happened to me three times and to four others that have reported it to me. Typically what happens is, you order several rounds and lose track and they pad the bill. To test this, I ordered one drink and then asked for the bill. I was being charged for three drinks. Same thing happened to one of our members; he ordered three rounds and was charged for NINE!
Others have reported inconsistencies in prices for the same drink depending on who is the server or whether seated at a table or the bar.
Also, those who have had "trouble" say that the source has usually been attributed to one particular waitress; the tall Colombian known as "Lissi". She was the previous owner and Mike has kept her on.
I don't know, but I don't think that Mike is behind this or even suspects this is going on. I will meet with him and discuss it. He has a pretty laissez faire management style so I don't think any changes will be made.
However, Mike has let go the two waitresses that spoke fluent English. Why, I don't know. These waitresses were a big plus for those of us who are not fluent in Spanish.
Melodye, the older one reported to me that Giovanni, the Colombian bartender who works on Thursday nights, does dilute call brand drinks. I also heard this from one of our members who sat at the bar and watched it.
Melodye told me that this bartender wanted her to order a five dollar drink (when a customer wanted to buy her a drink) and that he would mix her a Seco and she could pocket the five bucks. She refused to do this.
Most of us like the place and enjoy the atmosphere. The qualities we seek in a meeting place (low prices, open air, low music volume, convenience and accessability) are all there. Plus the "scenery" ain't bad either.
"Fore warned is fore armed", so for now, the suggestion is: DON'T RUN A TAB! Pay for each round in cash. Or, avoid the tall waitress known as Lissi. And KEEP THIS UNDER YOUR HAT.
The "low music volume" appears to be something new. Within its first month of opening La Terraza was summoned by the corregiduria for violation of noise regulations - quite an accomplishment in Panama.
FEEDING RATS IN THE KITCHEN
A Canadian tourist filed a complaint with the Health Authorities after consuming a hamburger at La Terraza made him sick. In the complaint, of which The Noriegaville News obtained a copy, there are detailed allegations about the kind of kitchen practices one would normally associate with horror movies.
The first problem is that they serve contaminated meat which got me sick requiring a visit to a medical doctor who told me I ate a hamburger whose meat made me sick.
The second problem is that they have cockroaches running around in the kitchen.
They even feed a wild rat in the kitchen which they jokingly called “the fat one” ("El Gordo").
No one wears hats so hair gets in the food at times.
Another problem is that they use illegal Colombian waitresses to help prepare and serve the foods who can’t be licensed by the Ministry of Health because they are illegal immigrants.
This is an unsanitary place. Their bathrooms are filthy, dirty, with toilets that never work. The kitchen is always dirty.
This complaint, filed months ago, has yet to be acted upon.
IMMIGRATION PROTECTION RACKET? THE DUBIOUS ROLE OF DON WINNER
Nobody likes to be cheated, and thus a couple of disgruntled clients wrote to Juan Carlos Navarro, mayor of Panama City:
Soy uno de tres turistas que estuvieron sobre cargado por un inmigrante ilegal camarera colombiana en una barra Americana en la Ciudad de Panamá.
Cada uno de nosotros le mandaremos este correo electrónico tan usted puede tener nuestras direcciones individuales de correo electrónico.
Fuimos dichos que el solicitante de la licencia del licor y el poseedor de la licencia ya no viven en Panamá.
¿Si eso no es verdad debe usted revoca la licencia del licor y hace al nuevo dueño solicita uno nuevo?
El nombre de la barra es La Terrazza en Vía Veneto cerca Vía Argentina en el distrito de El Cangrejo de la Ciudad de Panamá.
Gracias para estudiar esto.
To which Navarro replied:
Muchas gracias por escribir. Le estoy enviando copia de este correo a la Lic. Maria Del Carmen Silvera (506-9740), Sub Directora de Legal y Justicia para que realice una inspección a fin de confirmar la denuncia presentada por ustedes.
Quedo a sus órdenes,
Juan Carlos Navarro
Alcalde de Panamá
This complaint, too, has not been acted upon by the municipal authorities.
Complaints have also been filed with Migración about illegal Colombians working at La Terraza cheating on customers. One email, dated April 20st of this year, to Mr. Vega of the immigration service goes:
Last night around 10 p.m. I was at an American (Gringo) bar called La Terrazza (the terrace) in Panama City above the Hotel Veneto near Argentina street.
The Colombian waitress padded our drink bills by 2 drinks more than we ordered. We argued with her, but she ran away when two uniformed police officers came in. I also noticed the young, handsome, male bartender and another girl waitress also left the bar.
We asked some of the other Americans why they ran away. We were told that those 3 were illegal immigrants from Colombia who have been working there for several months. They don't have work permits.
I hope you can look into this and arrest them and send them back to Colombia. Tourists don't like been cheated especially by illegal aliens who should be doing their stealing back where they came from.
Migración replied that they would look into the case, but never did. Nevertheless, one Mr. Calvo advised by email on June 1st:
I passed your denunciation to the Investigations Department and they have been working on this case, and there will be events happening that you won’t be aware of.
My advice is to stay away from this place to avoid being caught in a quagmire.
If we understand this correctly, the action to be taken by Migración is so secret that nobody will be aware of it.
And this is where our old friend, the cyber-crook Don Winner enters the scene. As was to be expected, Winner wrote a glowing review pimping the rat and cockroach infested establishment. True to form, he admittedly got drunk amidst his rodent and insect friends and thus forgot to mention some important facts that he never omits when sober. As, for example, the detail that Mike-from-Texas owns and runs the outfit while living in Panama on a tourist visa, something Winner normally frowns upon. No mention of illegal Colombians either. About them, Winner had only this to say: "And the hot chicks, don't forget them: Cold beer, a good burger, and hot chicks bringing it to the table. Hey, if it works for Hooters it works for the terraza."
And that, even though Winner recently couldn't find sufficient words to describe how happy he was with new tourist visa rules designed to kick out Colombians and also handy to go after people he does not like.
And it goes even further: Winner reported elsewhere on his site that he was using his contacts at Migración to "turn in" people who he deemed a "pain in the ass" and who, in his opinion, had "broken Panamanian laws" or simply committed such crimes as maintaining a "high profile." At the same time however, Winner candidly approaches members of online chat groups related to Panama who have a problem with Immigration, offering help and assistance.
What kind of immigration racket is Winner running here? Could it be that he is using his "contacts" to protect Mike-from-Texas and his La Terraza rat hole from scrutiny by the migratory authorities?
We asked his "contacts" at Migración as well as the junta directiva of said institution about the nature of their relationship with Mr. Winner, but have received no reply.