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The Prize Bearded Ones

There was good and bad news in the ongoing rush of awards and nominations that Metro Santa Cruz writers have garnered for 1995. Following hot on the heels of writer Michael Mechanic's Peninsula Press Club award for Best Daily or Weekly Serious Feature come three nominations from the James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards. For the non-cognoscenti, that would be the Oscars of the food world, held Sunday night in New York City. Three of our staff writers grabbed recognition--Christina Waters for Waiting for Merlot," Gordon Young for "Tequila's Rise" and Ami Chen Mills for "Truth or Dairy?" The category from which Waters, Young and the winner, Washington Post reporter Benjamin M. Myers, were selected--Newspaper Writing on Spirits, Wine & Beer--drew 680 submissions worldwide. The Beard newspaper writing awards were broken into seven categories, with three nominees named in each. Of the 21 stories selected for the finals, our little company landed more nods than any other paper in the land with the exception of the Los Angeles Times (four nominees) and the New York Times (tied with us at three). The Washington Post, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News all ate Metro Santa Cruz dust. Unfortunately, all three of our homies lost to daily newspapers, which, as everyone knows, are part of a cold-blooded, global cabal to shut out independent voices of truth and justice like us. But, we wish the winners well.

Holiday on Wheels

Looks like the ol' Santa Cruz Holiday Inn is on the selling block again. The Seaside Company, which currently owns the hotel, is negotiating a sale with Chicago-area business honcho Ramesh Bhojwani. "It's certainly not a done deal," says Seaside Company spokesperson Ann Parker. "But there is enough interest that it has progressed into escrow, and now there is the next phase of the process. We don't know what his plans are with the property, as far as whether he wants it to stay a Holiday Inn. If so, he has to negotiate directly with Holiday Inn." The Seaside Co. has owned the Holiday since 1989, and put it up for sale in 1994. Parker says several prospective buyers have shown interest in the hotel. As things now stand, Bhojwani, who currently owns the Holiday Inn Express in Elmhurst, Illinois, can pull out of negotiations with Seaside without suffering any penalties, Parker says. The Holiday Inn became the focus of public attention last winter when a group of investors headed by Solomon Tsai of Foster City prepared to purchase the hotel. According to local union leaders, Tsai was planning to slash hotel workforce and wages, and reduce or eliminate health benefits. The union was planning a boycott of the hotel if Tsai took over, but the sale fell through in January. Leonard O'Neill, secretary-treasurer of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union, Local 483, says the union is not certain what to expect from Bhojwani should he buy the hotel. O'Neill says he spoke to Bhojwani on the phone about two weeks ago. "[Bhojwani] confirmed his involvement but was guarded about the terms, when it was going to happen, and the status of the workers," O'Neill says. "He said if a deal was going to happen he would contact me."

Dope Shtick

Sometimes news is about what doesn't happen. And so far it seems that the Bay Area outbreak of the "flesh-eating" Streptococcus bacterium that has been attributed to Mexican "black tar" heroin hasn't afflicted any local addicts. County officials have been on the lookout for the virulent bug, which, untreated, can destroy muscle tissue and secrete a potentially fatal toxin. Health officials in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties have seen two deaths and several dozen more infected IV drug users this year, but the outbreak appears to have slowed down, and neither Santa Cruz County Health Services, the County Methadone Clinic nor Santa Cruz Needle Exchange volunteers have seen indications of infection here. County Health Administrator George Wolfe says he recollects about four cases in the past year, including two fatalities, from an aggressive "flesh-eating" strain of Streptococcus, but he adds that the cases were not drug-related and the last one was about six months ago. "If it is advanced, it can be fatal, but it's treatable with antibiotics," says Wolfe. Wolfe says that the county put out a warning last fall about some cases of wound-related botulism, which had been afflicting local IV drug users almost exclusively.

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From the May 2-8, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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