On the waterfront

It just seems perverse to me: Stocktonians will flock to eat at a Denny’s situated in an ugly sea of asphalt, but they won’t support a restaurant perched over the lovely water that courses through town.

So I wrote a column about it. Here’s some reader reaction. First up, a belated e-mail form Bill Wells, head of the California Delta Chamber.

–”There are approximately 10,500 boat slips at marinas in the Delta.  Boating brings in about $279,205,609 per year, about 8,000 jobs.  Figures from the Delta Protection Commission 1995.

“Fishing opportunities include: black bass,  striped bass, steelhead, catfish, sturgeon, and salmon.  Fishing generates $209,378,000 annual revenue and 8,000 jobs

“Every million dollars spent on lodging generates 31 local jobs.

Moral: The Delta is big business. Stockton is missing the boat.

Next, Tony Finnegan, bar owner:

–”I couldn’t get past “An expert with the Urban Land Institute said a sports bar would succeed next to the arena. Where’s the sports bar?” without laughing.

 ”The reason why no one in their right mind would open a sports bar there is… because it would be full of people with guns who, when pissed that their side loses or tired of a drunk, trash talking loudmouth, goes a-shootin’. It already happens all over town. Hell, even the new Buffalo Wild Wings has armed guards.

“When I saw the artist rendition of what the waterfront could look like in 10 years – I got excited. I REALLY want to get in on that. I think it would be a booming area. Of course you would need to have a phenomenal police presence and an iron like grip on the quality of the patrons (similar to what we already do with our guest list at Finns).

“You would have to make sure your patrons can make it back and forth to their cars without dying. Finally, you would have to be affordable enough to make people want to come south to have a good time. You can’t count on the UOP students who have a very fixed budget to work with.

“You can’t count on the people with disposable income to come out on Tuesdays and Thursdays because they have jobs that give them that disposable income. So you are left with neighborhood locals.

“Unfortunately, within walking distance are some of the most violent gang members in the city. These will be your patrons.

“I would love to see the old shipyards become a valley version of Monterey’s Cannery Row. It would be fantastic to see a microbrew pop up. Maybe a few ethnic restaurants. A pub. These would all be great…in anywhere but Stockton. The problem we have is a cultural one. A culture of violence. … A culture of drugs. A culture of crime. Until we change the culture in Stockton – whatever opens along the delta will be fraught with death and violence.”

There’s a kernel of truth to this pessimism. Stockton does have an outsized bad element. It also has managers who know how to deal with that bad element. A place on the water is no different from landlocked establishments in most regards. By Finnegan’s logic any public establishment will be “fraught with death and violence.” That’s a bit much, and it amounts to a surrender of civic aspirations. Redevelopment done right should raise waterfront property values and ensure good clientele.

Next up, jsg, another Stockton skeptic:

–”My wife and I (are) year-round boaters. We spend our time between Stockton and the bay. We belong to  boat clubs and /yacht  clubs. There are some good restaurants on the water but were keeping them a secret .

“Most of them can be reached by car within 30 minutes of Stockton and have a good following by car and boat costumers . Here’s the deal at Bobs and Garlic Bros. It’s a short jaunt to the marina off I-5 (and) you have an element that has taken over the Garlic Bros. bar on the weekend. They’re loud and disrespectful and loads (of)  obnoxious small boats coming in with bump music with lyrics like (motherf—– this and a motherf—–that). No place on the patio for my grandkids after 1:pm….”

Patricia Lucas says, bring back the Delta Queen. The wonderful riverboat, which was built in Stockton, is tied up in Chattanooga, Tenn.

–”I think it’d be a great idea if they brought it back. And have weekend cruises to Frisco. I know the funds are bad. But that would be a wonderful thing to bring a back home.”













From Gene Beley: 

–”You always have a big heart in your wish for the betterment of Stockton, but this idealist approach just won’t fly in the real business world.

“There are some other elements lurking under the surface now that few see and, without more business experience, anyone would miss.

“Today, the marinas and the boating industry may be an endangered species.  I just sold my 28.5′ Bayliner when gas reached $5 a gallon and my long time boat technician, Fred Vijsma, had to raise his labor rates from $50 an hour to $65, and I learned almost all the others are between $70-$100+ an hour.  So that gives you two lines of the graph–one exploding upwards for the gas cost, and the other for the repair labor rates.  

“When Village West Marina started experiencing vacancies for slips, what did they do?  They RAISED their rates rather dramatically…. So draw in one more exploding upwards line for the slip fees.

“…I truly believe (gas prices) will be $6 and even $7 within the new few years…”    

“…The other economic element you omitted in your column is the majority of the Delta boating crowd comes from the Bay Area and other places like south of here on down to Fresno in the summer and seldom visit their boats during the winter months. I swear that about 90% of the boats just sit in their slips gathering dirt—even year round.

“With some boats at our G Dock, I never saw the boat owners and wondered why they continue to own the boats and waste their money paying the slip fees.   This is why so many Delta restaurants traditionally have such a hard time surviving through the winter months.  I think the reason Garlic Brothers and Bob’s at the Marina do well is, like Grupe said, they have a lot of roofs around them in an upscale neighborhood, plus the young crowd that has adopted Garlic Brothers has a hangout on weekends.  We live across the street on Lake Lincoln from Village West Marina and go there with friends who have no interest in boating.”

Somewhere between the unrealistic and the defeatist there’s a way to take advantage of Stockton’s water. Our ancestors did. Sacramento does. Other cities do.

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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