Soul of the city

Bites stands corrected: If Bites had feet, one of them would be firmly lodged in its big snarky mouth right now. Last week, this column reported that an inventive local development company was planning to remodel the Newton Booth School at 27th and V streets into row houses.

Well, that was just wrong. As company partner Jason Presley gently pointed out, LJUrban is proposing the project for the lot across the street from the old school. That’s still pretty cool. But Bites regrets any confusion the item may have caused and hopes the local neighborhood association isn’t freaking out.

The error stung even worse, since in the same column Bites was making fun of Sacramento Bee editors for not fact-checking their editorial about the labor fight at Blue Diamond (see “Labor pains,” SN&R Bites, December 14). Of course, Bites corrected its mistake and the Bee hasn’t. Go figure.

Back in the box: This next item pretty much sums up what’s wrong with Sacramento. You can’t throw a rock around here without hitting a new Rite Aid or other chain retail store. But when somebody comes up with something a little outside-the-box, the man slams down the lid.

Old Soul Co. coffeehouse had to close its roll-up door last week after the county health department took issue with Sacramento’s preeminent speakeasy of caffeine.

Old Soul is primarily a wholesale coffee roaster and bakery, operating out of warehouse on a Midtown alley and doing a brisk business with nearby eateries.

But over Old Soul’s short life, the place turned into an impromptu gathering place and, as co-owner Tim Jordan described it, a “guerilla retail” establishment.

Local artists began displaying work there, city leaders like Sacramento City Council member Steve Cohn and big-shot developer Sotiris Kolokotronis rubbed elbows with regular working folks who stumbled in for some decent joe and low-key ambience.

There was no cash register, because everything—a cup of coffee, a muffin, whatever—cost two bucks. Just throw it in the jar; you can make your own change. No public restrooms, and no central heat and air. And, unfortunately, no county permits.

All part of the charm, and Old Soul became quite popular, getting a lot of attention in the local press. Too much attention it turns out. Within a day of appearing on Good Day Sacramento, the county came knocking and ordered Old Soul to stop serving customers.

Jordan told Bites that the landlord has agreed to allow the business to provide a public restroom. But he worries that Old Soul won’t be able to satisfy the county—which likely will present him with a long list of improvements needed for permits.

“Worst-case scenario is that it just doesn’t pencil out,” Jordan explained. The wholesale business will remain, but people won’t be able to hang out anymore.

Jordan isn’t bad-mouthing the county; he says he knows health regs are a very good thing. He just hopes they’ll recognize there’s some value in helping a unique business to remain open.

“We can’t make this a Starbucks. We don’t want to be this renegade coffeehouse. We just want to be ourselves.”

Quote of the week: Here’s to one of our finer local blogs,, which had the same “geez-that’s-creepy” reaction that Bites did upon reading an article last week about the sheriff’s new “retro” patrol cars.

“I want the perception to be that every time you turn around, there’s a black-and-white,” Sheriff John McGinness told the Sacramento Bee. “We want people to have one of two reactions: ‘Oh, thank God, a patrol car is here,’ or ‘Oh my God, a patrol car is here.’ ”

If that doesn’t give you the willies, allow Bites to help McGinness finish the thought. “We also want people to say, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s sure a lot of police helicopters flying around the block tonight. Those spotlights are so bright.’ Or, ‘Oh thank god, there’s a surveillance camera pointed right at my front door.’ ”