21 February 2008

The Shaggy's Situation

This blog is a long time coming - the Shaggy's situation is what has pushed me over the edge.
Let's start by looking at the facts: a restaurant and bar has closed in town, not because it is not profitable, but because the local politicians/bureaucrats who consider themselves important have determined that Shaggy's sold too much booze and didn't sell enough food. Now, let me say, I have enjoyed Shaggy's both based on its food (decidedly different than the Newark norm) and its booze. It had a fun atmosphere and gave us food options much better than comparable simple bar food options (e.g. Deer Park or Kate's). I particularly liked the Conch Fritters and Fish Tacos (no place on Main Street was comparable in any way). There were also a variety of other different/interesting dishes. The number of crustaceans in the Sunday Brunch is a good example of the "difference". Of course, "different" does not guarantee food popularity (at least initially). They even tried cheaper specials, but the lunch never really became popular. But the bar held its own, and Shaggy's did fine.

Until the alcoholic beverage commission decided to take a look. And decided that Shaggy's didn't make enough money from food, and made too much money from booze. At first, the ABC decided that Shaggy's should "forgo" the post-midnight alcohol sales. Apparently, just for spite. How is a place of business improved by removing some of its most profitable hours? But the ABC was hell-bent on increasing the percent of total sales due to food, no matter the impact on the business. Yes, we would like to support businesses on Main Street. By crushing their profitability, of course, so that they only make money the way that we want them to make money. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Never heard of those things.

And in the end, it didn't matter. Because a niche restaurant in a poor location was limited in its opportunities to make money off food. So the city of Newark decided that it was best to eliminate a unique venue rather than recognize reality. I lost a favored restaurant because of government decision, not because the venue couldn't make it. How does this improve the quality of life of Newarkers, exactly?

But in the end, that's the problem of Newark in 2008. The government want only "certain types" of business, and is actively hostile to the interest of many Newarkers.

17 February 2008


I've lived and worked in Newark for about a decade. I hope to live here for an extended time beyond - I'm a faculty member at UD who loves the academic lifestyle as well as many aspects of my adopted hometown. This blog is intended to be a forum for the discussion of issues in Newark and, particularly, ways to improve Newark. The recent trends in Newark, particularly among the police and city council, are worrisome for those of us interested broadly in the quality of life in Newark. In my view, the quality of life in Newark depends on a thriving walking-oriented community. Thus, I have a strong interest in a broadly thriving Main Street that caters to the full community. My Newark loves (outside my university community) include the following: (a) bars: Deer Park, Grotto's, Iron Hill, East End Cafe, and Timothy's; (b) restaurants: Caffe Gelato, Iron Hill, Home Grown, Saigon, Deer Park, Margherita's Pizza, Number One Chinese, Santa Fé Grill, and Ali Baba; (c) record stores: crap, Rainbow is all that is left; (d) coffee: BrewHaHa, Brewed Awakenings. I actively avoid Dunkin Donuts (except late night), Panera, and Central Perk.

I'm distressed by developments that have made Main Street less thriving over the last few years. These developments include (foremost) closing of the Stone Balloon; increasing common muggings and other personal crime; excessive policing focused on alcoholic beverage violations and "speeding", and a complete lack of focus on the personal crimes (e.g. the muggings) that critically affect quality of life; the loss of Bert's Record Store; the closing of Shaggy's by fiat of the city council/alcoholic beverage commission; and the effective closing of Italian Bistro (not a great restaurant, but still) due to a lack of providing a liquor license. Each of these issues will be discussed more in the future. This blog certainly will include a voicing of my displeasure in these short-sighted developments!