Take a bow, brave occupiers. In a short period of time you’ve managed to destroy an already frail Oakland economy.
You must be so proud of yourselves.
Kevin Best and Misty Rasche remember when they had waiting lists for a Friday reservation at their bistro in the historic Old Oakland business district.
That was in 2007, before the recession hit and a series of angry protests that would come to define downtown Oakland.
Most recently, business at their B Restaurant & Bar has been harmed further since Occupy Oakland tents went up at City Hall on Oct. 10. Best and Rasche worry that the collateral damage from the protest may be the final blow for their restaurant.
“If we go two more months like this,” Best said, “it’s a wrap.”
Their restaurant is five blocks from the encampment. Businesses closer have suffered more, and not only from a loss of customers. Windows have been broken, street fires have been set, and graffiti has become part of the landscape, block after block.
Best and Rasche, West Oakland residents, don’t want to leave.
But as downtown business owners, they have been on a never-ending roller-coaster ride through the recession and the impact of high city unemployment rates, a series of high-profile protests and the disruptive demonstrations, and now Occupy Oakland, with its two tear-gassed melees in a little more than a week.
Despite it all, what may hurt most is the damage to the area’s image.
For a downtown that held such promise just a decade ago, it’s been painful journey.
“We own this restaurant because we love Oakland,” Rasche said. “You want to believe in it so bad.”
Since January 2009, the city has had three protests over the fatal police shooting of a BART passenger and one about cuts to higher education. The latest protest has been going for 27 days, including Wednesday’s general strike, which turned violent in the late-night hours.
The damage done by a small element of Occupy Oakland could have long-lasting effects on a downtown already struggling to overcome a bad reputation for business.
“Many, many Oakland residents … feel that this is disrupting every effort this city has made to have economic development,” said Councilwoman Pat Kernighan. “This has set us back 15 years.”