Plaza, ports

High-tech bar and arcade heading to north Chico; update on labor dispute.

It’s been hard to keep up with all the development at the North Valley Plaza lately. I’ve written about Buffalo Wild Wings, the expansion of The Pour House, a new Starbucks drive-through. And I’ve mentioned that there was another project in the works that wasn’t yet ready to hit print.

Well, two weeks ago, that project, the Galaxies Restaurant, was approved to move forward by the city Architectural Review and Historic Preservation Board. The 18,000-square-foot sports bar, restaurant and family entertainment center is a pretty cool concept. At Galaxies, each table will have tabletop touchscreens for ordering food and entertainment, with diners able to enjoy ESPN and NFL Sunday Ticket on their own personal screens. It will have a high-tech bar from which patrons order drinks through a tablet, rather than having to wait in line. One of the draws will be the arcade games, including racing and flying simulators. Learn more at

There’s yet another new restaurant that’s rumored to be coming to the plaza, and just across East Avenue, a major makeover is underway. Natural foods store New Earth Market is moving into a spot in the Walgreen’s shopping center, and the entire commercial development will see some major renovations. If you’re a fan of the Last Call Lounge, get over there soon—it’ll be closed by the end of April. I’ll have more updates on these improvements later this month.

Back to the ports: The day after my last column was printed about the devastating impact of the West Coast port slowdown on local businesses, a tentative labor agreement was reached. I’d like to think that my call to end the nine-month-long labor dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association had something to with the resolution, but I’m pretty sure it was a result of U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez showing up to negotiate an end to the standoff.

Last week, during an interview with NPR’s Renee Montagne, Perez said President Obama eventually gave the green light to intervene in the labor dispute because of the “ripple effect” the port slowdown was causing. Perez added that focusing on the “collateral damage” was his main argument to push for resolution. That collateral damage occurred right in our backyard, and the residual fallout is ongoing.

Jake Cecil, plant manager at Omega Walnut, said the Orland walnut processing facility is still not in the clear. They are “battling the backlog” of unprocessed walnuts after being forced to shut down plant operations. Additional costs for storage are adding up, and according to Cecil, even though the ports are now seeing movement, because there were so many shipping containers tied up during the slowdown, there’s now a shortage of available containers for new shipments.

Cecil worries that by the time the dust finally settles from this storm, the five-year labor contract will be back up for negotiation. I share his concern, but remain encouraged that Perez’s biggest bargaining chip, sharing stories about the effects on operations like Omega Walnut, will help to keep businesses out of the crosshairs of another labor dispute.