Business

Biz Buzz: Chamber meeting focuses on ugly side of ‘paradise’

Recent criminal acts and ongoing behavioral problems with drunks in San Luis Obispo’s renowned downtown came into sharp focus Thursday at the Chamber of Commerce’s monthly breakfast meeting.

The audience of 250 business people grew silent when Wendy Hinsdale told of how her 15-year-old daughter was punched in the jaw by a man while they walked downtown at 1 p.m. on Oct. 3.

The unprovoked assault broke the teen’s lower jaw in two places. Doctors had to wire her jaw shut to allow it to heal properly. As Hinsdale related the incident, members of the crowd gasped.

Hinsdale expressed shock and disappointment that no one stopped the attacker, though people were in the vicinity when the attack occurred. “This guy is still out there,” she said, adding how a recent trip she took downtown left her “freaked out” as Hinsdale wondered if she might see him.

“My biggest concern is the safety of the downtown,” she said. In citing another incident, Hinsdale noted that a man tried to steal a 23-year-old woman’s purse Monday night as she walked downtown, but the woman was able to fend him off.

“What are we as a community going to do to solve these issues?” Hinsdale asked.

It will also take a community wide effort to curtail the problems caused by people who drink too much downtown, said Kathi Main and Bill Hales.

Main is co-owner with her husband, Kevin Main, of Kevin Main Jewelry. Hales leads an investor group that owns five downtown bars, including Frog and Peach.

Kathi Main spoke of unruly behavior that downtown visitors must endure at times when passing by bars such as the Frog and Peach. She pointed out that bar patrons will go outside to the sidewalk curb to smoke, and friends inside the bar will lean out windows and yell loud, sometimes lewd, comments to them.

Passing by on the sidewalk at that moment is akin to running a gantlet, said Main.

Other downtown business owners have complained repeatedly about urine and vomit being left at their front doors overnight.

“We need to have a downtown that is pleasant, clean and safe,” said Main.

“We’ve reached a critical mass and it is negatively impacting the overall quality of the downtown,” she added, calling on city leaders to determine a new vision for the area.

Hales defended bar owners, saying they are already heavily regulated and do much to clean up after their patrons, but that does not get noticed because it occurs at 2:30 a.m.

The downtown bar establishments worked well with the city to curtail problems with Mardi Gras in past years, Hales noted. “We need to work together — cooperation is a key, and we’ll be at the table.”

An undercurrent to both discussions was the problem of homeless people in the downtown. A fourth speaker was Dan De Vaul, whose Sunny Acres program near the west side of the city helps homeless people with addiction problems stay sober and develop a work ethic.

County authorities charged De Vaul with misdemeanor violations of building and safety codes at his ranch. His sentencing is pending; De Vaul noted that a gag order placed on the case kept him from talking about it specifically.

But he pointed out how his program could help the community deal with its homeless problem.

— Tad Weber

Cayucos featured in travel magazine

Cayucos is featured in the October issue of Budget Travel magazine as one of “America’s Coolest Small Towns.”

“Cayucos is everything you want in a mellow beach town — an anomaly on the increasingly built-up coast,” according to the article, which is also published on BudgetTravel.com. “While the vibe is decidedly relaxed, two things get residents fired up: serious waves and serious food.”

The article features the Brown Butter Cookie Co., the historic Cass House Inn and Rogue Wave Café.

The Brown Butter Cookie Co., owned by sisters Christa Hozie and Traci Nickson, has been selling signature brown butter seasalt cookies for nearly two years, according to Hozie. The shop was featured in the February edition of Gourmet magazine and in The New York Times.

Other small towns featured in the article include Breaux Bridge, La., Lexington, Va., and Tubac, Ariz.

— Sona Patel

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