Is Grand Lake Theater on Crack?

Is this man on crack?

Is this man on crack?

Of all Oakland small biz owners, I recall one in particular, Allen Michaan, who rallied a rabid frenzy of gasoline-dependent “consumers” and fellow biz owners into an anti-city government parking fee increase froth.

Not that small businessees don’t have legitimate concerns of pure business survival during Great Depression 2.0, but the argument against parking  went too far. (I generally like his outdoor sign commentaries…)

Michaan, owner of the local movie theater by the lake claimed that his business was down 50% (?) due to the increased $0.50/hr parking fees? C’mon! Wake up and smell the non-fair-trade blue bottle coffee. Your theater has less patrons because their disposable incomes have shrunken like a cotton sweater left in the dryer on High too long. And you scared them off with parking ticket talk to the mainstream media. Heckuva job.

So now that Oakland City Council repealed its parking rate hike (and longer hours) this week, will we see a 50% rebound in said movie theater business? I highly doubt it. The Grand Lake shuck-and-jive to “roll” back higher parking rates will backfire into some other tax increase or service cut.

The real reason for Grand Lake businesses hurting is this:

Unemployment keeps increasing. Nationally the Sept unemployment rate is officially up to 10%.  That represents around 1 million fewer people working in Sept vs August.

To make house payments on your American Dream or to go out to movies every week requires a steady paycheck. A lot of people are losing that, which means they’re losing their disposable income.

Even if you keep your job, let’s say your credit card rate just got increased from 20% to 30% or your credit line got trimmed a cool thousand.  Now you have all the more reason to jump on Hulu.com or visit your local paid-for library’s DVD section… Plus, you might be inspired by all the bad news to actually save a few bucks for when you get laid off.

$3 gas now hurts more than $4 gas did in 2008.

Oakland business owners who have come to terms with all these facts of reality are battening the hatches for a few stark years  — and likely decades  — to come, Japan-style. People are only buying essentials these days. They’re going out less frequently.

Businesses which succeed will be the best of the best.

You can generally find these businesses at yelp.com’s “best of” sections.

They’ll also be located in great locations like Temescal, Uptown, maybe West Oakland, and perhaps even Rockridge. Areas close to public transit. Grand Lake can succeed too: at a smaller scale. Does any low-density neighborhood really need 5 beauty salons within three blocks?

Surviving businesses will thrive when their lesser competitors close. Survivors will have survived thanks to better service, unique ambiance you can’t enjoy anywhere else, maniacal focus, or being tight-knit with the local community. And most of all, offering something tangible which people really need. Food. Water. Air. Shelter. Clothing. You might have noticed that over in SF, the former Sony Metreon building now features an all-week farmers’ market indoors where sony hardware once sat. (Love the empenadas and day-old cupcakes!)

If they don’t offer the above, they are short-cutting or cheating somewhere. Think “bailout” or mafia.

Cheap and good is the order of the day.

Wishing small biz owners out there all the best! We’re in for a decade of penny-pinching. Now support your damn local economy by closing your national zombie bank account and switching to a local/regional bank or credit union!

I just closed my Chase account this week. If you can’t tell, I’m quite pleased with myself. 😉

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3 responses to “Is Grand Lake Theater on Crack?

  1. Michaan has actually said that his receipts are down 50% relative to other theaters in Alameda, which is a totally legitimate way to factor out the impacts of the parking hike from general economic issues.

    And the city council rescinded the longer hours, they left intact the parking rate raise.

    Those other things are reasons that small business is hurting, and should have been a reason for the city council not to impose one more hurt on them by raising parking rates.

  2. Agree that the council should try to employ more carrots than sticks.

    One way to do that would be to offer free massive (not just one wavy “w” rack) bicycle parking to theaters.

    Or maybe Michaan can work with EBBC to establish some covered valet bike parking right out front.

  3. Michaan’s claims of receipts being down is unverifiable, and as a sole proprietor, he does not have a fiduciary responsibility to tell the truth about his business in public. When sales tax numbers for the summer come out, we can compare Oakland’s sales with those in the rest of Alameda County. Until then, there is no way to know if businesses were actually hurt by people having to pay for parking in the evening.

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