Council approves Mind Games

The opposition’s dire visions of loitering teens, menacing skateboarders and sidewalks strewn with bicycles were not enough to sway the Chico City Council this week, as it voted unanimously to overturn the Planning Commission’s September decision not to allow an indoor entertainment center in a vacant storefront in downtown Chico.

In fact, none of the opposition—made up of the owners of future neighbors Zucchini & Vine, a gourmet kitchen supply store, Kat’s Meow, an upscale kids’ clothes and toy store, jewelry store Gabrielle Ferrar and the more-distant gift store Bird in Hand—voiced their opinions during the council meeting, as they had done in letters to the Planning Commission and Planning Department.

Dentist Robert Feder, who in May filed a fictitious-business name for his plan to open Mind Games, told the council he simply wanted to open a place for alcohol-free entertainment aimed at younger college students and fill what he termed an “entertainment gap” in Chico for people under 21.

The balding, pony-tailed Feder said chief opponent Bob Malowney, owner of Bird in Hand, had “made erroneous and inflammatory statements” to the Planning Commission when he referred to the business proposed for the southeast corner of Main and Second streets as a “poolroom” that “would have an indelible impact on existing retail businesses and limit the retail appeal of neighboring properties.”

Those neighboring properties in opposition each mentioned an attempt 12 years ago by John Legget to open a video arcade in the store currently occupied by LuLu’s Fashion Lounge, which sits between Zucchini & Vine and Gabrielle Farrar. Legget failed to get a use permit before moving in the video games, and when he finally applied the Planning Commission turned him down.

Memories of that failed attempt still linger in the mind’s of Gabrielle Farrar owners Madeleine and Lisa Nolta, who wrote of “Loitering, trash, vulgar language, skateboards and bikes scattered about the sidewalks, parking meters, ornamental tree guards and spilling over to other businesses along Main Street.”

But Lawrence Boag, one of the planning commissioners who voted against Legget’s arcade a dozen years ago, showed up this week to support Feder’s Mind Games, saying the two operations did not compare.

Real estate agent and former Chico Mayor Georgie Bellin defended the arcade and lamented the difficulty in renting the 5,000-square-foot spot. She cited a lack of parking as one of the major drawbacks for potential tenants. She also reminded the council that “downtown relies on the student dollar.”

Malowney, recognizing his was a lost cause, chose not to address the council but was gracious in defeat.

"I hope all the people who spoke in favor will sign on to make this a good business," he said after the meeting. "I hope it succeeds."