Thursday, October 29, 2009


I ran out of gas yesterday. Luckily, I was only about a block from a gas station when the truck started sputtering, and I only had to push it across the street and up to the pump. I had been running errands for a couple days knowing that there was almost nothing left in the tank, but too distracted to actually stop for gas. It's not the only thing that should be getting done and isn't. But lots of things are, and mostly going really well.

Construction is moving really quickly. We're just over a month into the job, and we're working on finishes already. Tile installation started yesterday. Booth construction is almost done. We're started building cabinets yesterday and are setting countertops today. We're even working on paint and trim. It's starting to feel like a Cafe, and not just a construction site. Which is great.

I've also been hustling to get my beer & wine permit. I appear in front of the Oakland Planning Commission next Wednesday for review of my case. I've also been working on all the paperwork required, including putting together the mailing for property owners within 500 feet of the Cafe, identifying nearby 'civic uses' (churches, schools, parks), getting fingerprinted, signing affidavits, supplying financial information, hanging posters, publishing legal notices, writing content for the planning staff, and on and on. It's a real pain in the ass actually.

I've had some conversations with individual neighbors about the Cafe and my service of beer and wine. Most have been supportive, but some have been concerned. I think I've been able to reassure folks that we're not interested in creating problems in the neighborhood, and that we'll be responsible neighbors. It's made me even more attuned to the delicate balances that we need to strike to create the type of community I've always envisioned. It's not easy, and I hope we get it right.

I'm really sad about the character of the development which has happened near 40th street on the Avenue, and in Emeryville generally, which has resulted in a bunch of fairly uninteresting looking strip malls and large housing developments. I hope that we do a better job here. While there's a need for new housing and commercial tenants in the area, I'd be sad if that happened at the expense of folks who have spent decades in the neighborhood.

Some good news - one of the two newly renovated storefronts on the block is open for business - a new beauty salon.

I get asked several times a day when we'll be open. I don't have an answer that I trust yet. Construction will hopefully be done in just a few weeks. Inspections will probably turn up some issues that we'll need to address. Hopefully, none of them will be huge. Once those are done, we've got cleaning, hiring, stocking, training, and opening left to do. The time is approaching. Soon.

Off to build more stuff.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

it's the time of the season of building

Another two-week gap between posts. I wish I could find the time to post more consistenly, but at the moment, I can't. So...

Construction is well underway. We've got almost three weeks behind us, and things are progressing nicely. Most framing is done, rough electrical and plumbing are just about done, and we've got a wave of inspections happening this week, working toward 'OK to close,' meaning we can start covering walls. We hope to be hanging sheet rock before the end of the week. HVAC guys showed up today to start installing our heater, and almost all equipment is bought and ready for install.

Pics soon. I promise.

I've been making good use of my Xtracycle - it's hauled lots of nice loads, including a big load of light fixtures last week, and a couple runs of electrical supplies this week. I still haven't figured out how to haul really long stuff, so I'm using my car for loads of pipe/conduit/lumber. Today, I picked up a truck from Jason, who's kindly agreed to lend it to me for a while while I'm doing lots of materials runs. Thanks, Jason!

Furniture and decor is progressing nicely. Benches are put together, and ready for installation. One of the seating bars is completely done, and it looks really good. Cutting and sanding of the main seating bar will start this week. I'm also starting to think about service countertops, and framing the structure for booths. I picked up a load of old floorboards today, which I think will become the apron of the bar, and maybe some other things.

I've been spending lots of time in the past couple weeks working on various things related to the Cafe's beer and wine permit. I have several endorsement letters, but am still working on collecting the last couple. I wrote nearly 10 pages of responses to the questions on the city conditional use permit application. I also spent some time with the planners at the city who are working on the permit. I got good feedback on the materials I've already submitted, and expect notices to go out to neighbors at the end of this week. This week, I'll also get the official notice which will need to hang in the front window for two weeks. And I'm on the agenda for the November 4th planning commission meeting. Still lots to do between now and then to ensure everything goes smoothly.

One annoying thing - since I'm getting some money from the city Redevelopment Agency, I have to collect three written bids for all work we're doing. I've been trying to get bids for some minor storefront work (doors and windows) I need done, and I just can't seem to actually get bids. It's been a month of working on it, and I've had guys that just don't return my phone calls, guys that don't show up, guys that do show up but never get me bids, bids that don't make's a mess, really. I think I'm finally done with the process, but maybe not.

It's been a lot of long days - I'm up between 4:30 and 5:30 every morning, and working until 11:00 at night most nights, with not much time for anything else. Two Fridays ago, I fell asleep in my evening yoga class (right in the middle). Last Friday, I couldn't even get it together to actually go to class. Luckily I've still got weekend days to recuperate. I finally caught up with all my bookkeeping this weekend, and even managed to clean my house, which is one of the things that's been getting less attention than normal lately.

I get asked about 20 times a day when our opening date is. I wish I had one. Unfortunately, it's hard to know how inspections are going to go, especially having had so many long delays with various permitting agencies already. Also, the Health Department final inspection is the last one to happen, and they'll be the most picky - paying attention to finishes, type and placement of equipment, etc. I hope that next week or so, I'll start to feel a bit more confident in a construction schedule, and can start laying out the rest of the opening activities. In any case, we're definitely going in the right direction, and barring big delays, we'll be open before I know it. Literally.

Anyway - I'm a little sad I don't have more to report. I've been so busy, it seems like I should have lots more to write about. I don't. And I want to get to sleep tonight, so...

Stay tuned for more updates, soon. Also, check out the new Facebook widget on the blog page (to the right), and if you're on Facebook, check out our new suggestion box discussion ( If you've got opinions, we want 'em.