Occupied J Street
This town. You’ve got The Sacramento Bee editorial page whining that the local expression of Occupy Wall Street has “worn out its welcome,” in Cesar Chavez Plaza. Other people’s First Amendment rights can be sooo tedious, eh Team Scoopy?
Then you’ve got Sacramento City Council members lecturing protesters to “buy something” from nearby businesses while they’re peaceably assembled.
And just how great is the burden for businesses and workers in the area of the park, where Occupy Sacramento has set up shop for going on four weeks now?
Bites asked at every shop on the perimeter of the protest—from Quiznos to the upscale Grange restaurant. And the answer was a resounding, “Meh.”
“Nothing negative,” says Mike Stevenson owner of J’s Cafe, kitty-corner to the park. (Bites promised to mention the spot will officially reopen as “Dad’s on J” after the coming Thanksgiving weekend. Yum.)
The occupiers are polite, Stevenson says, and worth a few veggie burgers. “I’ll make $20 from them.”
At Rodney’s Cigars, the guy running the register says, “They drink and smoke, so yeah, we’re getting a little extra business.” The store sports a “Tax Wall Street” sign-in in solidarity in its window. At the Grange restaurant, the hostess told Bites that early on, a few customers called in to see if they should cancel their reservations because of potential unrest. Since then, pretty chill.
At Broadacre coffee, owners Justine Kerr and Jake Elia are generally supportive of the protests, and think they may be getting a little bit of business from the cops who come in and need a little caffeine to keep them up for the long night ahead. At Temple Coffee, the woman at the counter says there have been some requests to use the bathroom or for a cup of water. Sometimes it’s annoying, she says. But otherwise, no big deal. Pawn shops, banks, teriyaki joints, the same. No big deal.
The worst complaint Bites heard was from the waitress at Wayside Noodles—she asked her name not be used—who thought that business was indeed down because some of their regular customers were a bit freaked out by the crowd.
The one place Bites was sure would be sick of the hassle was Cafe Soleil, right in the middle of Chavez park. There the owner, Nicole Ix, told Bites that the protestors are mostly “really nice people.”
“The bathrooms are cleaner. The park is cleaner. There’s less drinking. There’s more smoking, though,” Ix explained.
OK, so the businesses downtown aren’t exactly clamoring for relief. Still, the Downtown Sacramento Partnership—which represents central city businesses and landowners—would like the occupation to wrap it up.
“We realize it’s a public park,” says executive director Michael Ault. “But it’s never been our intention that the park would be used for a long-term event. At some point, you’ve got to communicate that ample time has been given to make your points, and let’s move on.”
Ault specifically mentioned the Citizen Hotel as having concerns. And all around the block, Bites heard the same suggestion, “You should talk to the Citizen.”
But while everyone else that Bites approached was neighborly and willing to talk about the protest, the people running the swanky Citizen were distinctly tight-lipped. Odd, since the boutique hotel has apparently been quite vociferous behind the scenes.
Standing in the Citizen’s gorgeous lobby—which was generously subsidized by Sacramento taxpayers with $10 million in redevelopment money—spokesperson Ashley Gadd would only tell Bites, in the most cheerful way possible, “I’m sorry, no one here is interested in talking to you about that.”
And why should they? When they can talk to mayors instead.