Jaco hastens to add there is another, even darker side of the business. He tells of run-ins with gangsters, grifters, and other street people. There was the teenager he scolded for loitering around the front door who lifted his T-shirt to reveal a large-barrel handgun and threatened to blow the bar owner's head off. And there was the new guy on the block who swaggered in and tried to impress him with his connections: "Let me use your phone -- I'll beep someone right now and then you'll know right here on the spot who you're dealing with." And the gimpy dope dealer who tried to muscle him, telling Jaco he had to go by his rules because he owned the street. He told the punk to get lost, and the wanna-be turf lord rode away on his bicycle.
"The sad part is that every time you call 911 it will go against your liquor license. That really bothers me," says Jaco. "But I'll step outside for a few minutes -- the cops are always in the neighborhood -- and I tell them this guy just hustled me."
And as far as the illegal activity in his bar, Jaco just shrugs. "The police had a problem once with staying open after five but nothing happened," he says. "And I disagreed with a police officer one time; he was trying to hustle me for this and that. But with time we understand each other. We're on the same page. There's a lot of trouble you can run into running a bar business. On a daily basis you probably break the law a million times."
Mild-mannered and orderly, Jaco tends carefully to his flock, his livelihood. He's a personable man who enjoys owning the Cove and running the show. "It's like a stage. And you have to be an actor," he says. "You think I like it when they tell me these ugly stories and breathe on me? I just woke up and I'm clean and I have to go in this smoky place and talk to a bunch of drunks at five in the morning. That's the hardest part, to be honest with you. I'd rather be in a clean environment."
That doesn't mean that he'd rather operate a fancier bar. He calls most other beach bars "phony"; he says the Cove and its regulars from the neighborhood are "real."
In the middle of the bar a man relieves himself against a wall and the terrazzo floor. "I can't help it," the elderly man pleads. "I couldn't make it."
When a slightly younger man, Jersey Pete, groans at the spectacle, the pisser snaps, "I said I can't help it, goddamn it!"
Turning his back to the pisser, Jersey Pete swivels around to the bar and puts his right palm to his forehead.
"God help us," he says to no one in particular.
"You think I like it when they tell me these ugly stories and breathe on me?