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.

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