Oakland tries to heat up the nightlife

January 7, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
It looks like Oakland's nightlife could be getting a major boost. City leaders are working on a plan to bring in more bars and clubs, with the possibility of keeping some of them open until dawn. The city has already spent millions to revitalize the Uptown District to bring an entertaining nightlife back.

City leaders have a lot invested in this neighborhood so they really want it to see it reach its full potential and that includes a better nightlife.

At Cafe Van Cleef, there is live music three nights a week. The bar, only a block away from the Fox Theater, is one of just a handful of nighttime venues in Oakland's Uptown District. Owner Peter Van Cleef would certainly like to have more company.

"Since I've started, they've put $200 million worth of housing in, they've put $85 million into the Fox Theater and probably a half a dozen clubs have opened and there's room for a dozen more," says Van Cleef.

City leaders hear that loud and clear. They're now working on a plan to help rev up the nightlife in Oakland. They are looking at ways to revamp the city's so-called cabaret laws. Councilmember Nancy Nadel is spearheading the effort.

"It's important for every city that's trying, after many years of having downtowns that were sort of dead and trying to bring them back to life, that you do it in a way that's really going to be sustainable," says Nadel.

Some of the proposed changes include speeding up the application process, lowering permit fees from $2,200 to $600, and allowing some clubs to remain open until 5 a.m. No alcohol would be served during the extended hours, but the hope is that staggered closing times will prevent big crowds from spilling onto the streets all at once.

Oakland police say while that idea could work, a few details need to be ironed out.

"When you stagger the hours and you have people leaving at different times, you're going to require police resources to provide services during those times," says police Capt. Anthony Toribio.

But if things end up working out, Van Cleef can't wait. He says uptown has a lot of potential to be a great night life destination.

"This is the last bastion of Oakland that's undeveloped," says Van Cleef.

This issue is expected to go before City Council as early as next month.