The Planning Commission gave their thumbs up tonight on the Town Hall plan, a combo night club, restaurant, cultural center in the old Sweet Jimmy’s location. “This is the former Sweet Jimmy’s. But it’s not like Sweet Jimmy’s,“ said David Valeska, who is the Planning Department case manager. The crowd laughed at the reference to the troubled nightclub that once occupied the spot on 18th and San Pablo.
“This will do for Uptown what Yoshi’s did for Jack London Square,” Valeska said. The plan was approved unanimously by all six commissioners. “I am looking forward to going there to eat and sing and dance,” said commissioner Sandra Galvez. Likewise, fellow commissioner Doug Boxer applauded the plan. “I was fearing that San Pablo was going to be left behind – again. It desperately needs investment,” he said. “I applaud you for taking a risk.” He evidently is eager to eat, sing and dance there. “I may be a white guy but I can dance,” he told his fellow commissioners.
Owner Michael O’Connor, who also operates The Independent in SF, said he has been searching downtown for the past four years for right location. He looked at 10 places before he saw the “for sale” sign on Jimmy’s. “I thought no way. That’s not a possibility,” he told the commissioners last night. But he checked it out anyway and was won over by the possibilities he could see in the multi-chambered building including a courtyard and a brick room in the back that dates back to 1895 and is perfectly designed for live music. He and partner Namane Mohlabene, brother of Oakland singer Goapale and former Nancy Nadel staffer, want to revitalize the street. Most of the people involved in Town Hall are Oakland residents and want to bring quality, diverse entertainment to the city, said Mohlabene, who also is a partner in a groovy West Oakland recording collective. He said Town Hall is not so much about nightlife as it is about a diversity of entertainment: music, clothing, culture, kids events, international soccer broadcasts. “We want to reinvigorate Downtown Oakland with activity besides just at night.”