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January 18-24, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Zyng Ends SJ Fling

While the message on the answering machine at Zyng Asian Grill calls it "the hottest pan-Asian restaurant in the Bay Area," the padlock on the front door of the South First Street eatery tells another story. Zyng franchise owner Steve Dunbrack said he is preparing to file for bankruptcy just 10 months after opening. "Downtown San Jose is apparently not the right place for what we were doing," said Dunbrack. He said there wasn't enough foot traffic to sustain the business. Zyng replaced Casa Castillo, an owner-operated eatery that lasted 18 years at the site, until it was evicted by the Redevelopment Agency. Dunbrack had hoped business would pick up this past fall, but when that didn't happen he was forced to close. The "fast casual" restaurant is headquartered in Quebec, Canada, and offered popular dishes from China, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Singapore. The San Jose location opened with great fanfare last spring—instead of the traditional ribbon cutting, San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales presided over a giant chopstick-breaking ceremony in front of the restaurant March 29. The restaurant was also touted by Redevelopment, which paid a seven-figure settlement to Casa Castillo's owners after it terminated their lease, as more evidence of the city's downtown restaurant renaissance. The agency says restaurants are the fastest-growing retail segment in downtown San Jose."Downtown San Jose has a reputation as a dining destination and restauranteurs know the market can support their concepts," proclaimed the agency's website. Unfortunately for Zyng, San Jose diners felt differently.

Poking Around

San Jose City Hall gadflies started buzzing a little louder last week when they spotted Rebecca Cohn's 24th Assembly District director John Kessler sitting through Tuesday's council meeting. While he and field rep Julie Lind endured hours of Grand Prix deliberations, Councilmembers Ken Yeager and Linda LeZotte also took notice. "Actually it was very curious," Yeager told Fly. LeZotte's chief of staff Jim Cogan said Cohn's staff members have "made it a point to attend a number of council meetings in the past year. They seem to be taking a greater interest in the city of San Jose." What gives? Is Cohn digging for issues to bring up in the state Legislature? Or is she keeping an eye on LeZotte and Yeager—both her competitors in the upcoming race for the county Board of Supervisors District 4 seat, currently held by Jim Beall? Well, Fly didn't find the answers to these questions at Cohn's office—Kessler denied any change in their City Hall presence. "I don't think we've really stepped it up," he said, adding that he and Lind regularly attend council meetings because District 24 covers much of San Jose. As for Cohn's supposed stakeouts, political insiders point out that she faces a tough campaign in an election season teeming with termed-out politicians scurrying to find new homes. Cohn has allegedly commented that she and Beall will be "switching spots" because the county supe is running for her assembly seat. (Fly tried to confirm this with Cohn, but she did not respond to us by presstime.) If that's her feeling, though, she may be in for an unpleasant surprise: it isn't mutual. Beall's campaign coordinator Carol Garvey told Fly he hasn't endorsed any of the candidates for his seat, and he doesn't intend to. "I believe he's going to remain neutral," Garvey said. The four vying for Beall's favor—Cohn, LeZotte, Yeager and Santa Clara Mayor Patricia Mahan—will speak at a candidate forum Jan. 26 hosted by the Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits.

BlackBerry Picking

You might think Silicon Valley's tech industry would be wringing its hands over all the troubles with BlackBerry—but you'd be dead wrong. The undisputed leader in the on-the-go communications world, BlackBerry is faltering as analysts say the patent lawsuit faced by the device's Canadian parent company, Research in Motion Ltd., has created "uncertainty" in the market. Now some Silicon Valley companies are standing by to take legal lemons and make BlackBerry lemonade. Already, Palm Inc. plans to unveil a new Treo (which will be compatible with Microsoft software). On the software side, Silicon Valley company Good Technology is licking its chops. CEO DANNY SHADER has been quoted as saying his company fielded more than 100 calls in a matter of weeks from customers worried about BlackBerry's patent woes. "The phones have started to go crazy," he told USA Today (Fly was unable to reach him). To the Chicago Tribune, he said, "We're sort of everybody's contingency plan." But BlackBerry is also making countermoves to fend off competition, such as beginning licensing its email system to outside cell-phone companies. The Nokia 9300, released at the end of last year, became the first non-BlackBerry device to use the BlackBerry (RIM) system.

Blogging With Ron Artest!

Fly raised an insectoid eyebrow last week when sports columnist Tim Kawakami filed a blog entry on the Merc's website that rather proudly detailed a screaming match the columnist got into with Golden State Warriors superstar Baron Davis. According to Kawakami, Davis saw him pre-game in the locker room and launched into a "rant" about Kawakami's pessimistic coverage that dated back to the guard's years at UCLA. Kawakami then admits that he "screamed back," telling Davis that he's written "10,000" positive pieces about him and, what's more, defended the poor guy "10,000 other times." Apparently this "screaming" went back and forth, which Fly finds fascinating. How kosher is it at the Merc for journalists to yell at the people they are covering? Is Merc political reporter John Woolfolk allowed to scream at Mayor Gonzales, if Gonzales berates him about his Garbage-gate coverage? Kawakami did not return Fly's calls asking for comment, but several readers used the blog's comments section to unload on Kawakami. One even used the name of possible future Warrior Ron Artest, saying, "if im traded to the warriors, im gonna run into press row and smack you across the face." Fly, of course, does not condone violence, but if you followed the Pacers-Pistons-brawl fiasco last year, you know why that's pretty damn funny.

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