JP23 owner release of new surveillance video raises questions

At approximately 2:56 am on August 2, 2021, a surveillance camera from Continental night club shows Velasquez and a man weaving from one side of the alley to the other before disappearing off camera.

Samantha Velasquez said she believed she had been drugged at JP23 Urban Kitchen restaurant/bar, and later raped and left in a parking structure on August 2. The story went viral on social media reaching over 500,000 people in just a few days. As a result, more women and men came forward sharing similar stories of being drugged at the same bar. Date rape drugs are quickly metabolized and therefore difficult to test for and alcohol can produce the same symptoms causing a person to be vulnerable to assault.

At a press conference called by Jacob Poozhikala, owner of JP23 Urban Kitchen restaurant/bar, held on August 25, the press was given links to surveillance video from neighboring businesses collected by JP23’s private investigator as well as several hours of video from inside the bar. The first few hours of time-stamped videos inside JP23 show Velasquez appearing to have fun, drinking, and dancing. Around the third hour she appears to be intoxicated though it is difficult to know if she was drugged or drunk as they can look the same.

By the end of the night, Velasquez is being led by her hand out of JP23 by a man in a white cap, glasses, and a Hawaiian print shirt. Also with her is a woman and a broad chested, dark-haired man. At approximately 1:40am, the group jaywalks across Commonwealth Ave towards Ace Hardware.

At around 2:40am, Velasquez appears on an Ace Hardware video stumbling toward Harbor with two different men following her. She pushes one of the men and then she stumbles into an alcove or alley, disappearing off camera. The two men wait for her to join them again and then the three of them proceed toward Harbor disappearing.

At 2:47 am, Velasquez appears again on the Ace Hardware video, this time swerving from side to side away from Harbor on Commonwealth as she tries clipping her fanny pack around her waist. One of the two men follows her up the street. Velasquez and the man seem to struggle to stay standing at around 2:50am. At 2:55am Velasquez is stumbling towards Harbor. She stops to look back at the man who is now carrying her fanny pack. Together they struggle to stay upright and then cross Commonwealth towards JP23.

At approximately 2:56 am a surveillance camera from Continental night club shows Velasquez and the man weaving from one side of the alley to the other before disappearing off camera. There were no police officers caught on any of the videos from the time Velasquez left JP23 at approximately 1:40 am to when she was stumbling with a man across Commonwealth Ave and down the alleyway between JP23 and Continental at approximately 2:56 am.

Velasquez said she woke up on the second floor of the SoCo parking structure on W. Santa Fe. The City’s CCTV cameras do not work anywhere in the City, including in the parking structure. When asked about the City’s surveillance video, City Assistant Analyst Anissa Livas, wrote in an email that the cameras have not been operational for some time.

“In regard to the CCTV camera servers, the Police Department made a request to the City Council for replacement with the use of ARPA (Federal) funding. The server system in the parking structure has been faulty and not working for quite some time and replacement has not been possible due to funding,” Livas wrote.  “Of course, this would require City Council approval based on how they intend to prioritize ARPA funding. Our Police Department has acknowledged that funding this project to replace and repair our downtown CCTV system would greatly aid in their ability to solve crimes and assist with calls for service.”

Poozhikala, owner of JP23 Urban Kitchen restaurant/bar, said he is suing Velasquez for slander. He also said that the hostess, who Velasquez named in interviews as a victim of sexual assault, is also suing saying that the story she told in confidence did not happen at JP23. The protesters continue to show up every weekend.

When asked about the remedy meeting that the City called to discuss JP23’s conditional-use permit, Poozhikala said, “This is a bar problem, not a JP23 problem. So, if there is an issue with over drinking, that is every bar where that happens. Bottom line is we are part of the community, and we always want the best for and the safety of the community.”


8 replies »

  1. this looks like she is totally drugged and these stupid men pray on them… this place is a total pray scene for women and men…. they posted the video to make it seem like she was drunk, but don’t be fooled!!!!!

  2. “Bottom line is we are part of the community, and we always want the best for and the safety of the community”

    Right. Says the guy with criminal convictions for violating public safety rules at this very bar.

    This whole thing stinks. I trust the creepy criminal bar owner who blames women for their own sexual assaults as far as I can throw him.

    • I don’t believe you are correct that the JP23 owner has had criminal convictions. There have been allegations but that is different from convictions. If you have any evidence of criminal convictions please post your source.

  3. The video in this article appears to show the man walking steadily trying to guide an obviously disoriented woman to a location. It’s suspicious that this man conveniently corralled her to a parking structure where the video surveillance system is broken. How JP23 is handling this issue is disappointing, victim shaming does zero in any cause. You’d think the bar would do more to protect it’s patrons so they keep coming back. JP23 can’t blame these victims for his bars lack of diligence, and surveillance, if your place isn’t safe people won’t come. Bartenders are some of the coolest people, and the best ones watch the crowd. They’re ambassadors and help flag creepy people.

  4. The title says questions have been raised. Well, what are the questions, and who asked them? C’mon, now.

    • Questions about where the police were, why the City has no surveillance, who is the man walking Samantha down the alley, and who raped Samantha? You are right that I did not ask these questions in this article. I also did not write the Title.

      • Then you need to add something to the text enumerating the questions. Or change the title. Otherwise it’s just amateur hour at the Observer.

      • On Sunday evening (July 24), my son was drugged at the Continental Room in Fullerton before the set he was supposed to perform. I would like to speak to you about investigating this.