It’s a Mad Bear world

OK, longtime Chico residents, it’s time to feel old: Madison Bear Garden is celebrating its 25th birthday this year.

“It’s neat now that after 25 years a lot of our guests are sons and daughters of former guests,” said Jack Sterling, who, with his wife, Darien, owns all the shares in the corporation that owns the restaurant. Sterling had worked for the previous owners since he was 20, and in 1993 he leapt at the chance to buy the Bear.

“We’re going to try to celebrate it for all of 2002,” he said.

Sterling said that during the first 10 years the Bear was in business, it had a similar menu as far as meals go, but it was more driven by the sales of alcohol. About 15 years ago, that shifted, he said, and, “It’s been nice to see the transformation,” he said. The college students still love it, but so do families, the lunchtime business crowd and other Chico natives.

Sterling, 42, said it’s somewhat humbling to be considered the “steward” of a building that’s nearly 120 years old, filled with “thousands of things equally as old.” He’s been approached by people wanting to buy it, but, he said, “I’ve never seriously considered or thought about it.”

“The mystique of the place is certainly the atmosphere,” he said. It’s “eclectic clutter,” with a mishmash of vintage signs, wheels and other gear plastered to the walls in a tongue-in-cheek way that lets people figure out for themselves what—if anything—it all means.

Hey, those aren’t fishwrap just yet

Think just because a newspaper is free you can take as many as you want? That definitely won’t be the case if a bill currently in a state Senate subcommittee becomes law.

Rico Oller, the Republican senator from San Andreas, is sponsoring SB 1437, which would make it illegal to take more than five copies of a free newspaper without permission from its publisher. It would be a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine and up to 10 days in jail for the first offense; $1,000 or up to 30 days for subsequent violations.

“It’s just pure greed,” said Matt Wheeler, the legislative consultant who put together the bill. “They don’t want somebody to read what’s in it or they want the money from it.”

Wheeler said people could make $15 or $20 from recycling a few bundles of the papers. (Don’t get any ideas!) He also said that in partisan, rural areas like Oller’s district, the little free papers might be the only place contrary opinions get a voice.

A few times, we’ve had people troll around yanking stacks of papers off our racks when they didn’t like a story, but we’d have to convince the district attorney to do something about it—if we could even catch the people. Under the proposed law, papers could go after them civilly.

Shoppin’ for space?

Chico State University, cramped as it is, is always on the lookout for properties to which it could expand.

The latest on the university’s potential wish list is at 25 Main St.—where the Chico Heat and other offices used to be, next to the former American Savings bank that is currently being used by university-related entities like the Center for Economic Development.

“At the moment, we are only thinking about it and talking about it,” said Bill Jones, who works in the office of Chico State’s vice president for business and finance.

Still, he confirmed, "Space is an issue. We’re really cramped."