About the Colony

Trying to influence diners isn’t wise

I see that the Atascadero City Council is going to spend $4,000 of the taxpayers’ money to entice us to go out to dinner more often, especially this spring.

I wonder just how realistic this is in light of the fact there are at least two restaurants in a three-block area of downtown that are now closed — Denny’s and The Carlton. And the expenditure of funds seems unwise due to the scarcity of discretionary funds in the community coffers.

It is noble to try to stimulate the local restaurant business, but is it fair to help the restaurants and not the hardware stores, auto parts shops, general merchandisers or beauty parlors?

I don’t think you need to entice people to go out to dinner. And you certainly can’t force folks to go to a restaurant that they wouldn’t necessarily patronize without some kind of local gastronomical stimulus effort.

For some, going out to eat means a hamburger and soft drink. For others, they want atmosphere that includes tablecloths, cloth napkins and unique surroundings. The hamburger guy may not want raw fish, while the sushi fan may consider the hamburger a dreadful choice of cuisine. Some diners may think Mexican food is a treat while for others, it’s Italian or someplace that serves up a good hunk of beef and potatoes.

The size of the party going to dinner makes a difference, too, along with how much money they have for the outing. My wife and I love to eat out, but we have curtailed that pleasure as our expendable income has shrunk. A husband and wife going out to dinner will go to an entirely different venue than when they have the kids with them, especially young ones. A person’s food allergies or other health-related issues may also dictate the choice of restaurants.

Atascadero has never had a reputation as a great restaurant town. There have been some good restaurants here, and there still are. Forty-five years ago, there was a very popular steak house in a modest single-story house on Curbaril Avenue as you headed west toward the Salinas River Bridge. I think it was called Red’s Steak House.

The Carlton had potential but never became Atascadero’s eatery such as it was back in the 1940s and ‘50s with its big horseshoe-shaped counter next to all those big windows.

Trying to stimulate local folks into some kind of Eat Out in Atascadero Month in April is not a wise expenditure of public funds and will have no long-lasting effects for that segment of the business community.