There was a lot of posturing involved in this anger-fest over parking laws in Oakland. I think the recent hikes were the straw that broke the camel’s back. Figures like 300 to 400 percent increases in the past few years were brandished during the meeting at the Grand Lake Theater, whose owner Allen Michaan instigated the event. He blamed years of bad business on parking policies. But he has blamed other things in the past. No doubt the merchants are being affected. But I don’t think Michaan’s proposal for a business shut-down next Thursday is such a great idea if parking is already hurting business. But he said he has several hundred signatures on a petition to recall City Councilmembers. They’re going to have to offer better responses than maybe people will take more public transit or let’s see how things go to calm things down. I just wnat to know how much it’s going to cost the city to pay the meter maids to work until 8 p.m. How is that saving money?
There are two in the near future: Aug. 27. But for Era and 2022 (originally known as Ave). The cabaret license hearing date is 3 p.m. in Room 2 of City Hall. Era is supposed to be a club so operators Alfonso Dominguez (Tamarindo, Studio FIVEten, etc) and Gairy Jacques (Air Lounge, 2022 ) and Kevin Best (B Restaurant and Bar) want a permit for DJs and live bands. Gairy Jacques also wants a permit so he can hire a DJ to play at 2022. Then on Sept. 10 (3 p.m. as usual), the soon-to-open Lake Chalet at the Lake Merritt Boat House has a hearing scheduled. The operators want the option to have live bands playing jazz, blues or soft rock in the resturant, pumphouse, banquet hall or cafe/bar.
Oakland-based artist Squeak Carnwath has a show at the Oakland Museum. I don’t know her work well but from the interview on Forum she sounds like my kind of cerebral artist. If you’re going to go do it before Aug. 23, when her show and the museum are scheduled to close. The museum won’t reopen until May 2010 because of the renovation.
Things have cooled down at the historical ballroom since July when the city threatened — or so it seemed to supporters at least — to take away the venue’s cabaret license. I was on vacation but it sounds like Sweet’s let the crowds get out of control a few too many times — or so it seemed to police — during the past few years. The city and supporters (mostly Ecstatic Dance regulars who gather at Sweet’s) converged at a July 9 meeting and hammered out a temporary solution. Oakland’s administrative hearing officer Barbara Killey said the operators agreed to hold down attendance to 400 for now and build their way up from there gradually. Owner Matthew Fox said otherwise: “We are still working with the city and presenting them with a list of events that were large and had no trouble over the past years. So the limit of 400 is by no means established at this time.”
But it sounds like the city wants them to acquire more experience and put mechanisms in place for promoting events before they can grow any larger. “The event is only as good as the promoter,” Killey said. Indeed. The owner and manager Sherman Lee don’t have the kind of experience that you need to put on shows that draw in 800+. (That number seemed to be the breaking point for Sweet’s events when crowds outside created melees on the street. ) Fox is a pastor and rents out the ballroom to users. Right now the promoter is whoever is putting on the event. Steve Snider and Andrew Jones of Oakland Venue Management used to run the ballroom but had a nasty falling out with Fox a year or so ago after a biker club gathering got too loud outside. The hooplah over the bikers blew over, more or less, but the bad blood between Steve/Andrew and Matthew Fox didn’t, at least not totally. There was talk of legal action against Fox for a while but I think they got it settled. So there’s no centralized control at Sweet’s except, I guess, Sherman. The operators argued they don’t have control over the events and the promoters. But Killey said their contract shows that they do have the power. The city doesn’t seem in any hurry to shut down Sweet’s Ballroom, which is part of Oakland history and does some good stuff. So we’ll see how it goes. This might be one more example of how an entertainment commission would be useful. Maybe not.
I hear the Grand Oaks Grill on 8th and Washington has reopened as a sports bar with a new manager, fresh interior and spruced up menu. But I haven’t seen it for myself. The place is an Old Oakland pioneer from the first wave of nice-ification.They only seemed to open for big private parties and the rest of the time the dining room was empty. Can’t say whether the bar was every busy because it’s set back behind the dining room. Perhaps I’ll have more cause to frequent the classic bar since they have a new drink menu (pomegranate martini, peach martini, draft beers…).And they are supposed to host game nights, including Cal.
Meanwhile across the street, Kai’s seems to be open – hardly ever. I think the building is for sale, which might explain why they are closed nights. In the meantime, the Friends of the Library Bookmark Bookstore (on Washington in between 7 & 8th Streets) has expanded it’s hours to include Sundays. The bookstore will now be open Sundays from 11AM-2:30PM, in addition to regular hours of Monday-Friday 10:30AM-5:30PM & Saturday 10:30AM-3:30PM. And a note: this Saturday is the last chance to visit the Night Market, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., in the courtyard of the Pacific Renaissance Plaza — 9th Street between Franklin and Webster.
I put the follow-up taxi story to bed tonight and finally got a chance to read the East Bay Express feature about the dramatic sinking of The Cerrito and Parkway speakeasies. Good to have the story of disintegration in one place although I don’t think that’s the whole story. In the meantime, Will “the Thrill” Vilharo is taking his Thrillville showcase of all glorious B-movies, once a Speakeasy staple, on the road to SF (the 4 STAR cinema!) and San Jose. The material is having its West Coast distribution debut. The Cerrito has reopened successfully under the management of Bay Area familiars Rialto Cinemas and the Indiana-based Motion Picture Heritage Corp. is in the running for the Parkway. The Fischers, who sparked something special to the East Bay, are stuck with many millions in debt. Doesn’t take a fortune-teller to forsee a long road ahead.