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DTO Nightlife: Far from footloose and fancy-free

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!

Posted in california, citycouncil, downtown, oakland, planningcommission, taxis, transportation.

8 Responses

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  1. V Smoothe says

    If you want to argue that dance clubs should be open until 6 AM and allow marijuana smoking on premises, that would be one thing. But your suggestion that Oasis is some sort of victim of an unfriendly and anti-fun bureaucracy in this situation is disingenuous. Laws banning such activities are hardly unique to Oakland, and Mr. Mebrathu was warned repeatedly to cease allowing such behavior, and repeatedly ignored said warnings. I’m all for supporting nightlife and relaxing cabaret regulations, but nightclub owners also need to do their part and comply with the law.

  2. Jonno.N says

    Oasis is easily the best night-club in Oakland, it would be a travesty if they shut it down or disallowed dancing/live music there. Their music selection is eclectic and epic, I’ve never heard a bad DJ there and their Reggae night is amazing. They throw some great minimal shows too.

  3. dto510 says

    V – well, that argument sounds like fun! It does seem that Oasis’s owner is not being very responsible. But late-night shows with some wacky tobaccy are in a totally different league than the shootings and traffic jams that other clubs get closed for. I agree with Jonno that it would be a shame if Oasis closed, because it’s playing great music that other clubs don’t feature. I hope the Council can find a compromise short of the clubbing death penalty (ie, revocation of a dancing permit).

  4. Joanna says

    And yet I’d say that the City fought to keep certain nightclubs with shootings open. Go figure!

  5. richard says

    The Oasis is aptly named, it is the host of (at least) cultural events that have been very positive for Oakland communities. One event is called The People, which has been bringing healthy organic food, good music, and diverse communities including LGBTQ and straight folks dancing happily under one roof. The emphasis? The PEOPLE. This is something that Oakland needs FOR SURE. Also, Oasis is the home for Butta, Oakland’s premiere party for queer women, and this community would have a huge loss from losing the Oasis.

    Yes, one may smell ganja in the air once in awhile. Perhaps we are months away from that not being a legal issue. But it would be a travesty to close down a center for positive community congregation and fun. Like Joanna said, there are nightclubs with much worse things going on, and there are definitely clubs and bars in Oakland that are cocaine speakeasies, arguably a more illicit substance than marijuana.

    Save Oakland’s Oasis!

  6. Max Allstadt says

    Legality aside, does anybody live close enough to Oasis to give a fuck if it stays open 24/7?

  7. inadvertentgardener says

    Yo, dto. Congrats on the parking lot victory…loved VSmoothe’s post on how you and Becks pulled out all the stops. Fab-u-lous. :-)

  8. newoaktown says

    I’ve been to Oasis in the past and always enjoyed it. Open mic, random dancing with house/hop DJs, etc.

    The city should give Oasis its application so it can continue to operate and rejuvenate the city!!!

    Why would richer people move here with NOTHING TO DO?