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Save The Pig

Another twisted tale of downtown nightlife

By Gary Singh

When Katie Bloom's on First Street finally succumbed to downtown's war on nightlife, Biter exposed the farmer's-town machinations of the Downtown Nightlife Prevention Bureau (DNLPB) (Biter, "The War on Night Life," Feb. 6, 2003). The space remains empty to this day.

Likewise, when Casa Castillo got shafted during the Twohy building renovation, Biter cried foul when plans revealed that Zyng Asian Grill would soon open up in the same exact space. And when the Lawrence Group recently decided to toss out Inca Gardens like yesterday's newspaper, Biter lamented.

Now it looks like yet another independent establishment—the Flying Pig Pub, a mom-and-pop joint if ever there was one—is getting the boot. Barry Swenson executed a pre-emptive strike and did not renew the Pig's lease after a decade of packing 'em in.

Naturally, it's a landlord-tenant issue—we know that—but all profanity aside, Biter is sick and tired of this nonsense. The farmer's town of San Jose volunteered countless bucks to help jump-start the Improv, and who knows how much cash exchanged hands in bringing fluorescent trophy-store eateries like P.F. Chang's and McCormick & Schmick's to downtown. Not that those are lousy venues—of course, not—but it's obvious the DNLPB wants to downgrade the neighborhood to a homogeneous yuppie Disneyland, and it revels in screwing certain unique independent businesses in the process. An organically grown downtown just doesn't fly. Honestly, it makes one embarrassed to be from San Jose. No wonder San Francisco is laughing at us.

Now, Biter understands that it will never matter to corporate real estate behemoths what their tenants or potential customers actually think, but if you want Disneyland, go to Santana Row. It's already there, for crying out loud. If the city can use eminent domain to pilfer a shopping center and give it to someone else who plans to use it for the same reason, why can't they step in and save a thriving reputable independent business like the Flying Pig? Any real city anywhere relishes a downtown with funky, urban spaces and independent businesses to give it a unique appeal. The DNLPB wants to end downtown as we know it. They don't want anything "local" downtown—only Starbucks, P.F. Chang's or whatever ridiculous chain restaurant comes along next. Sure, it's great that Christmas in the Park and Downtown Ice bring in all the nuclear families from the 'burbs for a month, but what about the rest of the year?

One can easily predict the future. The DNLPB will use eminent domain to swipe Mission Ale House away and then replace the property with a Denny's franchise. Why not? It makes perfect farmer's town sense. Get rid of Original Joe's and install a Hard Rock Cafe. Flatten House of Pizza and erect a Little Caesar's instead. It's a San Jose tradition.

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From the December 22-28, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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