Let the free market decide downtown

Downtown businesses are once again in an uproar about the wrong type of business being put in downtown. Last time it was a tattoo parlor, and this time it is an arcade. Why retail businesses would want only more retail businesses is a mystery to me. If you want an all-retail downtown, you had better kick out the banks, television stations, hair salons, copy centers and attorneys’ offices, as well.

The Chico City Council should allow a mix of businesses downtown. Let the free market decide.

Let me begin by saying that I was in the arcade equipment business for nearly 10 years in Chico. My business supplied video games, pinball machines and pool tables to other businesses on a profit-sharing basis. Many of these businesses were in downtown Chico, including Woodstock’s Pizza, Pizza Face, Main St. Pizza, Campus News and Planet X. In some of these locations I had brand-new, top-notch equipment, and in no case did the games make enough profit to even pay the rent of the building!

The idea of a successful arcade in downtown Chico is laughable. I watched as the owners of Team Players installed more than $100,000 worth of new equipment in their arcade, only to remove most of it within a year. Top-dollar equipment has to make top income to be profitable.

A few years back someone started a virtual-gaming business near the Nord Avenue Safeway. They used cutting-edge computer equipment and charged by the hour. I was very impressed with their setup. They were out of business within a year. And let’s not forget QZAR and Ray’s Family Fun Center, which were both clean and well run. Both have gone out of business.

I could go on and on about what’s wrong with Dr. Feder’s business plan, but I won’t. Instead, I say let Dr. Feder build his arcade! If he wants to pump $200,000 into the Chico economy, then let him. There is nothing illegal or immoral about an arcade. There is an arcade in the Chico Mall, in Tinsel Town Theater and in the new BMU on campus. Why should there not be one downtown?

And if you haven’t noticed, there are already teenagers downtown. In my experience most teens are good kids, and only a few are troublemakers. To be young and bored is not a crime. Maybe giving the teens something to do would help eliminate the perceived teen problems. I don’t see the ice cream parlors, restaurants and record stores chasing away their paying teen customers.

To Dr. Feder I say, crunch the numbers and think again. To the City Council I say, we need a mix of businesses downtown. You should let the free market decide. You love the free market when it comes to the garbage business; why not for downtown businesses, as well?