It might sound like a strange transition, but for a man who shifted gears for a living — literally — it couldn’t have been smoother. East Bay native and former trucker and insurance agent David Cruz went from pulling in $4,000 to $6,000 a week to serving drinks at the Starlight Room, San Francisco’s famous rooftop nightclub — and he loves it.
Cruz, 36, is in his sixth year at the nightclub, which was remodeled in September. A natural fit for Valentine’s Day, Starlight patrons pass by a bouquet of six dozen Ecuadorian roses as they make their way into the venue. A lineup of specialty cocktails will be on hand for the romantic occasion — one being the appropriately named Naughty Red Dress. 450 Powell St., San Francisco, (415) 395-8595, www.harrydenton.com
How did a trucker and insurance agent manage to land a bartending gig on the 21st floor of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel? I laugh about it. My buddy was a security guard … up here, and I was coming from a catering special events class. I just happened to be in a suit and tie, came up and talked to the general manager. I started as a bar-back for about a year.
What’s your drink of choice? I drink according to the occasion. For the most part, I’m a porters guy. I like the dark beer. On Valentine’s Day, I’m probably drinking Champagne, I’m probably drinking wine. If I’m somewhere new, I’m probably trying cocktails.
What makes this place different from any other nightclub in The City? Aside from being the only rooftop nightclub, the only one for quite a few years, we get such a mix up here. We’re not like the other nightclubs around here; we’re predominantly a tourist business. We don’t have many locals. But we’re friendly.
This will be the nightclub’s first Valentine’s Day since its reopening Sept. 1. What’s different about the place? We used to have like this mid-’70s, “Alice in Wonderland” look. That’s what we went from. And now, we’ve turned into this modern … I guess “red velvet” is the new word. It should be the Red Velvet Lounge.
You’ve worked your share of Valentine’s Days. Any memorable stories? I know we’ve had plenty of wedding proposals. We set it up out here — candles, chocolates, Champagne — people looking through the windows … and then the proposal. I mean, it could end up bad, but it never has. I’ve seen a lot of tears, but they’ve always been good.
This is a fancy joint. Do you ever see anybody special up here? There have been plenty of movie stars. Sean Penn was a regular here. These guys, they don’t like anything special. They drink what everybody else drinks.
You look like a natural behind the bar, but you’ve mentioned you have aspirations of owning your own nightclub some day. Could you see yourself doing that instead of bartending? I do. I’m a go-getter. I like the chaos aspect. I like 50 people yelling at me. I thrive off it.
Has anyone ever written you a personal note? I’ve gotten some love letters.