STERLING – The foundering Latin American Social Club, which allowed its liquor license to expire on Aug. 31, recently sold the West End building it had been struggling to maintain.
The clubhouse, which sits on more than 2.5 acres at 2708 W. Lincolnway, was sold Dec. 20 to David R. Barajas Sr. for $380,000, according to the Whiteside County Recorder's office.
Barajas, 74, of Rock Falls, owns Dave's Coffee Cake; his son, David Barajas Jr., owns La Familia Restaurant and Bakery in downtown Rock Falls.
Barajas Sr. said this afternoon that he is not yet ready to discuss his plans for the facility.
The clubhouse, which the LASC built in 2001-02 when its building at 311 Wallace St. became too small, has a bar, a kitchen, a banquet area and a stage, and was offered as a venue for weddings, concerts and quinceaneras.
The historic club's long, slow decline started shortly after, and took a nosedive in August, when the Illinois Liquor Commission declined to renew its license because of record-keeping issues dating back to 2014.
When club President Roman Sotelo, 45, notified the city of the expiration of the state license, the the city pulled its local license.
The inability to sell liquor was a major blow to the nonprofit organization, which was struggling to keep afloat and had opened the bar to everyone, not just club members.
When Sotelo became president in January 2018, he inherited a club that was behind on its mortgage and utilities and was trying vainly to boost its flagging membership and increase revenue through donations, special events and facility rentals.
"We are finally in good standing with our bills, and then this just kind of came out of nowhere," Sotelo said at the time.
The LASC, founded in 1951 to promote the local Latino culture and community, also has suffered from many years of infighting and was trying to overcome an image tarnished by past liquor code violations.
Its building may be gone, but the club itself is soldiering on, holding meetings at 6 p.m. the first Monday of the month at Sterling Public Library and continuing the call for new members.
"Right now, we just want to re-establish ourselves," said Sergio Sotelo, who's leading the effort to reunite and rebuild the club, and set new goals.
Although they are sad to lose the building, a lot of stress has been lifted from club members' shoulders, and now that the sale of the building has rendered the LASC virtually debt-free, the hope is to find a new location, and maybe some grant money, said Sotelo, who is Roman's uncle.
"We fell on our face, and now we're picking ourselves up," he said. "We're just happy that it stayed a business within our own community."
Sterling Alderman Jim Wise, also a member of the LASC, noted its important and historic role in the community and lauded the club for its tenacity and for the new direction in which it is headed.
"We certainly do look forward to the opportunity that the club will carry on being a very viable organization, to help promote and advocate for the Hispanics in the Twin Cities," Wise said.
"We also look forward to welcoming a new business to Sterling, especially on the west side," he said, where the city is annexing properties and plans to develop a new business park nearby at McCue Road and state Route 2.
To join the club
The Latin American Social Club meets at 6 p.m. the first Monday of the month at Sterling Public Library, 102 W. Third St. New members are welcome and wanted.
Call or text Sergio Sotelo at 815-535-7712 for more information.