In Oakland it seems that one has to attend a late-night City Council meeting to spend late nights out clubbing. With dancing all but illegal, our grittier, more crowded version of the small town from Footloose forces nightlife lovers to engage in elaborately choreographed routines to appeal to public sympathy, with no guarantee of a Hollywood ending. Fortunately, the same skillset for pitching woo at midnight over a pounding beat can aid a political pitch at midnight over the background noise of a gadfly. Tonight, erstwhile clubbers and other supporters of a more vibrant Oakland will appeal to our elected representatives to reverse decisions made by bureaucrats that harm downtown Oakland’s nightlife.
Oasis Dancing Permit Appeal
Though the claim that Oakland shutting down clubs with violent incidents is an elaborate racist conspiracy is far-fetched, it is certainly true that the city is not supportive of late-night businesses even as the General Plan and other policies encourage a “24-hour city.” From the smoking ban to cabaret permit application fees to pinball bans to the city-created taxi shortage, Oakland does not make it easy for nightlife venues to be successful. But when, against all odds, a dance club is successful yet does not lead to shootings in the neighborhood, one would expect the city to be pleased. One would be quite wrong.
The Oasis, a somewhat run-down club with a wonderful space and an unique music selection, is appealing its denial of a cabaret license to the City Council tonight. Essentially, the owner’s permit was yanked because his almost hundred-year-old building didn’t pass all inspections, and he continued operation. Undercover police found after-hours operations and “the scent of freshly burnt marijuana” as well. When contacted about needing a permit (after four years of operation and business tax payments), the owner applied for a permit. His permit was rejected because he was operating without a permit. You can read the entire Kafkaesque saga in the staff report, but suffice to say that there are no allegations of violence or anything more serious than folks dancing without a permit.
Uptown parking lot
Late last year, Forest City Development asked for a three-year extension on its agreement to build a tower on a city-owned parcel at 19 and Telegraph. The Redevelopment Agency could ask for almost anything as a condition of extending their lease, but chose to ask for a surface parking lot. Ever since then, area residents, clubbers, and concerned citizens have been fighting this very visible step backwards for the Uptown neighborhood. Much has been written about this proposal, but it is important to note that, whether the parking lot is ever built or not, the only effective plans for increasing area car parking have come from pedestrian advocates opposed to the surface lot (including keeping the Franklin lot open later and installing signage). Tonight the Council will hear Redevelopment Agency’s request to apply to the Planning Commission for permission to build the lot; if they vote to move forward, it will likely be back before them in six months when either residents or the Redevelopment Agency appeals the Planning Commission’s decision.
So downtown nightlife lovers will congregate tonight, not at Somar, but at City Hall. There may be an after-party, but the meeting’s liable to run past bar closing time. If we’re successful, there will be other chances to party. After all, the City Council doesn’t meet every night!