Oakland, Berkeley, And East Bay News, Events, Restaurants, Music, & Arts
p.s. the name "rockridge improvement club" is intended to be ironic. it's actually the original name for the space, which was initially occupied by a pro-prohibition group when it was built in 1912.
Someone who moves in a working class area from an outside neighborhood with a pocket full of cash and no ties to the current community, is contributing to gentrification. Scott Ayers is not. The owners of "Ye Olde Hut" weren't pushed out - they wanted to sell. The appearance of the bar hasn't changed at all other than him having literally two weeks to replace all the floors, by law, because they were ROTTING - he would not have been allowed to open if he didn't do it. For anyone who actually went to the Hut recently, the Ping Pong table was actually taken out before they closed - I don't know if this is true, but I heard it required a cabaret license, which the bar does not have. He sells craft cocktails that, while not usually my thing, are extremely tasty and created by local Oakland bartenders who have been around forever. They're not doing anything that they weren't already doing at other spots in Oakland. You can also get a Miller High Life + a shot for $5, as well as Zachary's Pizza, which already exists around the corner. Scott has been working in the service industry, literally across the street from this bar since 1994, and living from paycheck to paycheck for the past 15 years! Knowing how tough things have been for him with recent unemployment, and the struggle to survive in the bay area in general, as a friend, I'm extremely proud of him for opening this bar!
Let's turn down the thermostat a notch, people. The G word - gentrification - is so incendiary it's difficult to talk about it with anything resembling our inside voices.
I get it. It's tough. Would you prefer a vacant storefront to an artisanal cheese shop in your neighborhood? What about the Dollar Store next to your favorite Asian fusion restaurant? The answer is not easy, which is why I only pose the question.
Me, I hold out for those pockets of Oakland where unicorns still exist, where, say, a long standing shoe repair shop, or donut place, or mom ‘n’ pop hardware store, can exist cheek-by-jowl with a cocktail bar or exclusive clothing boutique. I know the pressure of increasing rents and a shifting demographic are driving these unicorns away, but those neighborhood pockets are still out there. Let’s cherish them.
The G-world also begs the chicken and egg question: are the newer, cleaner hip places being opened to cater to the more affluent crowd that can afford Oakland's ridiculous rents (average two bedroom apartment $3244), or are the affluent crowds following the leads of new bar owners and upscale entrepreneurs? Again, I only put the question, not the answer, out there, because the issues are maddeningly complex and nuanced.
But I am certain about one thing: this article made me actually feel proud about the dismal (charming?) state of our bathrooms. Alfredo, Ruby Room and Radio Bar.
To enlighten those who don't know...
Ramar Foods is the company that pirated the Magnolia logo and brand of ice cream from the Philippines.
Most Filipinos in the United States assume that the "Magnolia" products they see are related to what they grew up with in the Philippines. NOPE... And don't believe the canard that Ramar Foods is a licensed distributor. They are neither licensed nor a distributor.
The "Magnolia" products in the USA with the familiar oval logo is NOT of the Philippines. Niloloko lang ng Ramar Foods at ng Quesada family tayong mga tunay na Pinoy. Huwag kayong mapada-leh.
Tingnan ninyo ang label. It has no San Miguel.
PJ Quesada registered the "Filipino Food Movement" as a non-profit (disgraceful tactic) in order to shield his family's company from criticism for their brand piracy and trademark squatting. This company Ramar built itself based on the theft of Philippine intellectual property. Not just Magnolia, but the Pampanga's Best name as well.
Research it. Be informed consumers. Don't be hoodwinked by this Savor Filipino group -- imagine, pati ang AlDub Nation dinamay pa nila dito. Kesho ang mga Pilipinong sumusuporta sa ADN ay wala daw karapatang to talk about Filipino food. Eh, sila? Ni Tagalog ni Cebuano ni Kapampangan o anupamang wika sa Pilipinas, hindi sila makapagsalita ni katiting.
Nagpapanggap lang sina PJ Quesada na Pilipino daw sila para kuwartahan ang mga tunay na Pinoy na walang kamuang-muang sa pinaggawa ng Ramar.
Huwag tangkilikin ang produkto ng mga nagnakaw sa Pilipinas!!
Don't forget King's X turned Kona Club.
Hey Pilar, this is Kolin, former owner of Easy Lounge / The New Easy. First of all, I wanted to commend you on what I generally think is a fair article.
That said, I'm hoping that I can give you and your readers an outsiders perspective on the changing bar scene in Oakland. I moved to Portland a few years ago, and since I have no vested interest in the "scene" in Oakland anymore, I hope this can be more objective than had I still been involved in the industry there.
Ruby Room and Radio should be given credit where credit is due. Prior to these bars arrivals, Oakland was strictly a blue collar kind of drinking town, whether in the Caucasian (McNally's) or African American (Serenader) vein. Of course, there was cross pollination, but one way or the other bars catered to an older kind of crowd. Radio & Ruby seized on the opportunity of more and more young creative people looking for breathing room across the Bay. They truly were the first wave of evolution.
The next series of bars to change things up were created by people who frequented Ruby & Radio. I include Easy in this, and there were many others... Kitty's (who, if memory serves, opened up a few months before us in the space that is now Prizefighter), Van Kleef, The Layover, 355, Somar, just to name a few. We weren't bound by location, but the thing we had in common was that we were generally bootstrapping it but trying to do a little more, whether that was fancier drinks or dj music. Most bars in this wave made a good faith effort to honor Oakland as a multicultural place. We were gentrifying, but we tried to do it the "right way" (if there is such a thing). It was not an easy process, and we got lots of push-back (Kitty's closed partially due to a large fight, and Easy came close on numerous occasions to a similar disaster, for example), but at the end of the day we were able to show folks that it is possible to have black and white, rich and poor, young and old enjoy the same establishment.
The wave that followed, unfortunately, didn't see it that way. Perhaps we didn't do a good enough job educating people about the history of Oakland, but it seems to me that many of the same people that were attracted to what was created by people like Peter Van Kleef also decided that they really wanted something a little more sanitized, a little fancier, and yes a little (now a lot) whiter than what already existed.
Simultaneously, the City of Oakland and the State of California decided to ratchet up the level of regulatory complexity in our industry, which forced most establishments caught in the middle to increase the cost of their product, and justify this by elevating the superficial parts of the bar experience. In other words, it didn't pay to be a neighborhood joint, do nice cocktails, and play by the rules. I guarantee you that there is not a single establishment in Oakland that doesn't at the very least bend the rules in order to make ends meet.
What you see today is the sad result of these two factors.
Frankly, Easy was just as much of an offender as we transitioned to the New Easy. Without boring your readers with the details, in our case we were very conscious of the change and decided in the end we had to do get rid of the DJ booth and elevate the experience, since the neighborhood we were in had changed and a business like ours was not going to be welcome very much longer.
I left Oakland partially because I grew tired of the constant struggle, trying to create a simple life in the face of crime, cost, and regulation, and I wanted my child to grow up in a more bucolic environment. But, in retrospect, while Oakland is not the place for me anymore, I realize now that the struggle is what makes Oakland different and special.
It would be a shame to extinguish the vestiges of this struggle in the name of elevating the bar/restaurant experience.
I'll have to check out the new Hut space. I stopped going there when they replaced most of the pool tables with ping pong.
That ship has sailed, my friend. Decades ago.
You work at Penrose and still wrote this article? And put your industry peers on blast? Super lame, dude
Hey Pilar, it is Cory from 355. I just wanted to clarify a few things in your article. Firstly, before opening as 355 the space was most recently known as Miss Ivy's I believe, Big Al's being sometime before that. The reason I am not entirely certain is that the business was actually abandoned long before we opened over six years ago. The article, I'm sure unintentionally, makes it sound as though my bosses came in and bought it out from under someone, which simply isn't the case. By the time they came along it had been shuttered for many years. It should also be noted, that they aren't some out-of-towners, or new money, that came in and swooped it up. Patrick has lived in the Bay Area since he was 18 (for the sake of his pride I won't say exactly how long that is, but trust me, it has been a minute) and Travis was born and raised in Oakland. I don't think this would fall under the category of "gentrification" as much as two guys fulfilling a dream in an empty space. As someone who has bartended in Oakland for the past thirteen years, I know the area has changed quite a bit. I remember working at Radio and being pretty much the only game in town. That being said, I think we have to be careful of just labeling all progress as bad or gentrifying. It doesn't factor in that, as with all change, some is good and well intentioned. I would like to think that we at 355 fall into that category. I'm sure you think of your job at Penrose in the same light. And hey! We have Hennessey at 355! :)
No mention of Val's, an 'American diner'?
Great article. Thank you
The Kingfish always set the standard for dive bars for me, a lot of real characters hung out there. Once awhile, as I remember it, the Cal Sororiety women would all swoop in at once - I recall the old guys saying "geez, these preppy Cal girls all got fat butts now, Don't they?" I used to get a kick out of that. It's was true, 80's era preppy girls all had fat butts, they didn't work out like they do now.
The thing not mentioned about the reopened publik house is that Scott worked in that neighborhood, on that same block none the less, since 1994. That he's been serving that neighborhood from the coffee shops to the neighborhood gastropubs for the majority of his adult life and had patroned Ye Olde Hut since the day he arrived in Oakland as a 22 year old dropped off after making a cross country move with the money in his pockets. Scott is exactly who the tired old bar owners should be turning their businesses over to because he isn't some tech douche gentrification piece of shit.. He opened that space with love and adiration and the utmost respect for that bar and the glory he wanted to bring back to make it the place it was when he stepped in there (when you pilar were in kindergarten and have no concept of), a lively fun approachable neighborhood watering hole with quality drinks and friendly faces.
Need more divey sports bars!
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Good for you, don't stop!
This program is the prison industrial complex incarnated. They profit and get awarded BIG government contracts essentially profiting of the pain, trauma, and vulnerability of both recently released parolees as well as homeless folks and people highly dependent on housing/social services.
People celebrate the carwash, a little inside info on it from a former participant they are mandatory for compliance in the program and the workers are not paid for their labor). To me free labor that others profit off of is not truly recovery, but maybe I just have a different definition then them. Just some helpful info for all of those under the false belief that they are truly making these participants lives better by supporting it.
Also, the housing is terrible and overpriced even by Bay Area standards (they stack four bunkbeds in about a150ft. sq. room for close to $800/month). Being in such close quarters doesn't allow for the space or silence that I have seen help myself and countless others dealing with substance abuse/mental health disorders.
If possible, it usually isn't a choice for participants, AVOID THIS PROGRAM AT ALL COSTS!
JB -Former Participant 2013-2014
Being Femme means I am special.
I don't have good job, didn't do well at school, was never noticed by anyone really and have few friends. I was really low down on the life scale. I didn't fit in and really suffered.
But then when I became femme, wore loads of make, cool femme clothes and whilst I still don't have a great job money or buckets of friends I feel special. I get noticed in the street, sometimes negatively, sometimes women come up to me to tell me I'm brave for my dress.
I went to high school with Christian and he always made me happy when we would run into each other during and after high school. I hope you're well, friend!
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