The new downtown

Maybe my Saturday-night outing was doomed from the start—undercut by a nagging skepticism.

District 30, Pizza Rock and Dive Bar, brought to Sacramento by a San Francisco developer, just opened in the 1000 block of K Street (directly across from the Crest Theatre) as part of a plan to bring life to the oft-deserted corridor. I’d visited earlier in the week and then, with its new gaudy neon signs ablaze, the freshly revamped K Street reminded me of downtown Cabo San Lucas and its plethora of Americanized tourist traps including Cabo Wabo, Planet Hollywood and the Hard Rock Cafe.

That Sacramento had just last year gotten rid of its own Hard Rock Cafe only added to the irony as I viewed the mostly deserted street then: Swap out Cabo’s streetside drug dealers for K Street’s homeless, and the vibe was nearly identical.

But, on Saturday, the atmosphere seemed to have improved as people excitedly flitted into Dive Bar—so named for its mermaid theme. We peeked inside the window to see a fish-tailed woman floating lazily in a tank perched above the bar.

Nearby, a small crowd congregated outside Pizza Rock and the sounds of Weezer blared overhead. It was only 6:30, but the restaurant was jam-packed.

“Hour-and-45-minute wait,” the hostess informed the four-person party ahead of us.

And a table for two?

“Hour and a half,” she said, tapping on her clipboard for emphasis. “We should be much faster by next weekend.”

Next weekend. Great but not very helpful now, especially considering that part of Pizza Rock’s appeal is a 900-degree oven that can reportedly cook a pie in 90 seconds.

Faster is, apparently, relative.

The movie we planned to see started in 90 minutes, so we instead followed the people ahead of us and made our way down the street to Pyramid Alehouse, where we were seated immediately.

“These new places should be great for places like this,” my husband said as we watched people flock in—most of whom also seemed unwilling to wait for pizza.

“The wait is two hours,” a middle-aged woman griped as she was shown to her table.

“I grew up in Sacramento—we never had this kind of thing before,” another 50-something woman said admiringly as we later stood in line to buy movie tickets.

After the movie, I reasoned, we’d give it another go with a drink at either Dive Bar or District 30—the latter a “sophisticated” nightclub aimed at the over-30 crowd.

But when the film ended just after 10 p.m., we were still out of luck.

By now K Street swarmed with young clubgoers; the lines for District 30 and Dive Bar snaked around the corner and the block teemed with 20-somethings decked out in their best microminis and cheetah-print Uggs, Ed Hardy tees and backwards baseball caps. The cars on 10th Street honked impatiently and valet attendants yelled to keep the flow at a brisk pace.

No, thanks.

Call it reverse snobbery, but while these places may bring much-needed revenue and “life” to downtown, they don’t necessarily bring much else other than a carefully polished air of “edginess” and prefab kitsch.

I’m glad there are crowds—even if those crowds are just made up of trend seekers hunting down the latest, hottest thing instead of people hungry for an organic groundswell of arts and culture.

I’m glad this new venture is successful but, as my husband and I enjoyed beers at our small neighborhood bar, I was also glad I was no longer there.