Blogging Bayport Alameda

September 2, 2014

Don’t speakeasy

Filed under: Alameda, Business — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

I’ve been thinking a lot about the grand opening of Capone’s Speakeasy and wondering why it went so badly.  I’m sure by now folks have heard the rumors about the the involvement of police of the first evening, the police blotter has not yet been updated so I can’t confirm if the rumors I have heard are correct.   There is a range of how the police got involved, but the story almost always ends with one of the owners ending up on the wrong side of the Alameda Police Department, which I’m guessing that if you own a bar is not where you want to be.

Yelp has an assortment of reviews, mostly bad, some good.  I generally take Yelp reviews with a huge grain of salt and my general policy on Yelp reviews is that I typically won’t say anything about a place that is a small business if I have an overall negative outlook.  I will ding big corporations, but never little mom and pop establishments.  With that said, between these reviews and others it really seems like amateur hour over there at Capone’s.   I mean when they announced the whole “dress code” thing early on, I got it, but knew that I was probably not the type of patron that they were going for.  I don’t dress up. Period.  Unless I have to go to a wedding and even then I do it reluctantly.  But I was willing to be supportive by not crapping all over their dress code thing. As commenter dave suggested the owners should have done this:

Perhaps a better idea would have been an invitation-only Grand Opening, requesting formal or even 20’s era attire, then splash the photos on social media & open the next weekend to the public, however attired.

Or even better hold a soft opening if they really just wanted to get the damn place open and then run that invitation-only Grand Opening in a few weeks after the kinks have been fully worked out.  In the days of social media being able to make or break you, the decision to launch out of the gate with this dress code seems surprisingly tone deaf.

As I mentioned yesterday, after reading the fallout from the disastrous opening day/evening I tried to go to see what all the hullabaloo was all about.   On their website they mention a 9:00 a.m. opening on Sunday morning, presumably for breakfast/brunch.  The place was tightly locked up at 10:30 a.m. an hour after their listed opening time.   Still I wanted to see for myself and so the husband tried calling at least three separate times in the afternoon to see if Capone’s was actually going to open on Sunday evening. We decided to go to American Oak instead for dinner because I found their passive aggressive reminder tweet on Saturday about the lack of a dress code to be rather hilarious.   We did take a quick walk around the block after dinner to see if Capone’s managed to open up around 6:00 p.m. and sure enough it was.

So I pop in to ask about whether they’ll actually be opening on Sunday like their website lists and the two hostesses at the stand are perhaps the two most clueless people on the planet.  A simpler answer than a whole roundabout response of just having a grand opening last night blah blah blah would probably be the honest one of “lady, I just work here, I don’t know what’s going on” if the front of the house staff is any indication of the quality of overall service, I’ll give Capone’s until the holidays before it shuts its doors.

The thing is the remodel looks pretty nice, from what I could see of it.  I only popped in for a little bit because the staff at the host stand definitely did not make you feel “welcome” to take a look around and maybe have a drink.  I don’t know if it’s because they don’t have previous service experience or if that’s the vibe the management is looking for, but it may be a while before I will attempt to actually go.   They might want to consider using these next few weeks to really work out the kinks and do a “reintroduction” to the public to put a better foot forward.   At this point given the levels of distain I’m not sure if they’ll be able to recover unless something changes rather quickly.

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40 Comments

  1. What are the police rumors?

    Comment by dave — September 2, 2014 @ 7:14 am

  2. The restoration of the building is beautiful! Like Jolie’s on Webster Street, many people thought it wouldn’t work, but they were wrong. Jolie’s is quite popular – with lines out the door on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

    I read the Yelp reviews and looked at the photos and it looks like some people are excited to have someplace to dress up and were having a good time. I hope they look at the reviews and figure out what they need to do to make it work.

    Comment by Karen Bey — September 2, 2014 @ 7:16 am

  3. I wish them luck, with some caveats. the pictures of the interior are nice, including the pictures of the jazz combo [but people: don’t forget about Speisekammer which has been putting on great, and not too loud, music [jazz, blues etc.] for a good while — a great, great treasure in Alameda]. Caveats: their sign looks like TGI Friday’s with the mob theme — is that a huge, and sustainable, niche market, as-yet unknown?; the name [yes, we knew the proposed name earlier, and perhaps hoped that a better one would be used in fact; as a final product, the outside appears to promise novelty shop]; dress code: up to them, but not likely sustainable except on Halloween; hopefully, we will not see the violence that occurred at another nearby bar too often.

    Comment by MP — September 2, 2014 @ 7:41 am

  4. Ok, I’ll gossip. I hear(completely unsubstantiated) the owner was arrested opening night. 2nd version of the rumor had him taking a swing at the cops, which is usually what happens as these kinds of rumors spread, but we shall see. The headlines will look just as period as the place, I guess.
    “Speakeasy operator thrown in the slammer on Grand Opening.”

    Comment by BMac — September 2, 2014 @ 7:49 am

  5. I’ll channel my inner Benita Butrell: I heard the same as BMac, owner allegedly arrested for taking a swing at the police. But how we got to said swing, I’ve heard different stories. First story is that he was upset because the police wouldn’t allow him to shut down the street for his Grand Opening and expressed that very vocally to the police. The second version involves an under-aged server at his restaurant (I think this is a stretch though). The third version is that there was some police action happening in the vicinity of Capone’s and the owner got upset and expressed that to the police because it was cramping his Grand Opening. The police blotter hasn’t been updated yet, so we won’t know if he was actually arrested until then.

    But I ain’t one to gossip, so you didn’t hear that from me.

    Comment by Lauren Do — September 2, 2014 @ 7:57 am

  6. I covered the opening for my last Alameda a la carte column in the Alamedan. I arrived at just after 9:00 pm and witnessed the police wrestling with a profanely verbose fellow right outside the side entrance. I had to practically step over them to get to the front door. The “perp” was vigorously denying that he had bitten one of the cops. The cop was rubbing his leg. Oh, yeah. And there was a hair in my food. No kidding. This is going to be my best column ever!

    Comment by Denise Shelton — September 2, 2014 @ 8:55 am

  7. Oh boy, here it is, from the Saturday police blotter:
    1400 PARK ST
    Report Type: BATTERY COP
    Time: 21:06
    Arrested: STRACHEN,MARK JAMES Race: W Sex: M Age:50
    Charge: 647F PC
    Charge: 148 PC
    Charge: 1203.2 PC
    Charge: 243B PC
    Summary: (ARR) was heavily intoxicated, ran across a busy street, and grabbed an officer’s arm. (ARR) then resisted arrest
    and battered another officer before being taken into custody. (ARR) was also in violation of his probation.

    Comment by trow125 — September 2, 2014 @ 9:18 am

  8. I don’t think there are any words to describe trow125’s blotter info.

    But on the bright side, three DUI arrests too, the police were not kidding about that DUI checkpoint.

    Comment by Lauren Do — September 2, 2014 @ 9:25 am

  9. BREAKING: Internet rumor true!

    Comment by BMac — September 2, 2014 @ 9:33 am

  10. Not everyday the CEO and President of a new venture gets arrested on opening day. Wow.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — September 2, 2014 @ 9:38 am

  11. Add on to #3: “hopefully, we will not see the violence that occurred at another nearby bar too often”, after opening night

    Comment by MP — September 2, 2014 @ 9:50 am

  12. What is Mark Strachen on probation for? What was his original crime? Between him & Stewart Chen, Alameda is really becoming a haven for ex-cons…there goes the neighborhood… and that “Kansas” feeling.

    Comment by vigi — September 2, 2014 @ 10:15 am

  13. Vigi, which Kansas do you mean? The Kansas of the Bloody Benders (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Benders), Westboro Baptist Church, or the killing of George Tiller (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_George_Tiller). Thanks, I’ll pass on Kansas and stick with Iowa.

    Comment by david burton — September 2, 2014 @ 10:35 am

  14. As I recall, Robb Ratto, speaking on behalf of PABA, I guess, was featured by Brian Hackney on “EyeOnTheBay” segment about Alameda as saying: {alameda] is a little bit of Kansas in the bay…or something like that, I haven’t looked up the clip yet. Being a 3rd generation Alamedan myself, that metaphor has always offended me. So does the Iowa metaphor.

    I prefer Father George’s = Alameda is the poor man’s Hawaii. Crown Beach was the place to be this weekend! That’s why I don’t live in Kansas. Or Iowa.

    Comment by vigi — September 2, 2014 @ 10:53 am

  15. Coming Soon

    Comment by frank M — September 2, 2014 @ 10:56 am

  16. Good for you, Frank! I thought of the “In Cold Blood” murders as soon as I finished my previous comment, but you beat me to it. Another great reason to stop comparing Alameda to Kansas! Alameda just ain’t no stinkin’ Kansas. if you came here from there, you betta off now.

    Comment by vigi — September 2, 2014 @ 11:03 am

  17. How is it possible for anyone on probation to manage / have a liquor license ?
    no puritan here , yet they need another place to roost like Oakland , plenty of open space by jack London square .

    -Vigi thanks for the pointed comments

    Comment by Frank — September 2, 2014 @ 12:54 pm

  18. # 12
    Want his record look them up in the State ” search by inmate” that guy is no food and beverage business owner he is a sheet metal worker ….. bail set at $12500
    Glad He was not a Chiropractor ……Another one that will cry victim of Police brutality.

    Comment by joel — September 2, 2014 @ 1:18 pm

  19. Maybe this is a wake-up call that we should review our Main Street Retail process.

    Comment by Karen Bey — September 2, 2014 @ 1:52 pm

  20. Karen how can we review our process when the City is run by convicted Felon.
    How many times does the Police need to intervene before closing a joint …
    How someone on probation got hold of liquor license
    Look back in Alameda History at about the same time the Mayor was forced out due to corruption will History repeat itself , hope not, got used to Mrs Gilmore .

    Comment by joel rambaud — September 2, 2014 @ 2:10 pm

  21. Joel, your comments aren’t worthy of a response.

    Comment by Karen Bey — September 2, 2014 @ 2:15 pm

  22. Is there a way to salvage this train wreck? Strachan aside, the other partners have got to be worried.

    Should they blanket the city with coupons to bring in traffic? Change the name & concept? Host a charity gala? Embrace the dress code and stay fancy?

    They need to do SOME-thing, don’t they?

    Comment by dave — September 2, 2014 @ 2:37 pm

  23. Karen, I use to go by Joe, and Joel on this blog, but after reading some comments from them I changed to Joseph…I didn’t want people to mix me up. When you respond to a Dave you never know which one you are responding to.

    Comment by Joseph — September 2, 2014 @ 2:41 pm

  24. Joseph – I know what you mean. For some reason, I always thought Dave and Joel Rambaud were one in the same. They both seem to have a similar agenda.

    Comment by Karen Bey — September 2, 2014 @ 2:59 pm

  25. Say what?

    Comment by dave — September 2, 2014 @ 3:05 pm

  26. I read a YELP review, and it said the guy paid “$13.00 plus tax” for a Manhattan. He said they didn’t have Makers Mark nor any cherries. I can get that drink in the city for ten bucks or less. So no Capones for me.

    Comment by John P. — September 2, 2014 @ 3:11 pm

  27. slogging through Yelp reviews was interesting. The place has it’s fans, but I didn’t get how some of them think the problem is Alameda isn’t ready for change and things to that effect. The owners missed the boat on so many basic levels it will be surprising if they can right the ship. Dress code issue aside, if your main gig is being a bar and not a restaurant it seems like you should be ready, willing and able to mix ANYTHING, but they apparently don’t do a Gibson, like it’s not classy enough.

    As for well dressed people acting classy, here’s a good one off the wire:

    A tuxedoed Seattle man was arrested early yesterday after he fired a gun at a couple who accidentally interrupted him while he was being pleasured by a woman in an alcove in the city’s nightlife district, cops report.

    The couple told cops that they were walking on a downtown street after 2 AM when they happened upon Paul Hunter, 64, receiving oral sex from a woman. After being spotted by the duo, the woman “immediately left,” according to a Seattle Police Department report. Hunter, police report, “got angry and started walking away northbound.” But after about half-a-block, he “turned around, pointed his gun at them” and fired a shot at the couple. “I’m going to kill you,” Hunter said, according to the victims.

    Responding to a 911 call about a firearm being discharged, cops searched for a male suspect described as “older, wearing a tuxedo and having white hair.” With their weapons drawn, officers quickly apprehended Hunter, who had a loaded 9mm handgun tucked in the waistband of his pants. Hunter declined to speak with police.

    At least the guy in Seattle didn’t try to bite the cop.

    Comment by MI — September 2, 2014 @ 5:58 pm

  28. So you all know….a lot of the positive Yelp reviews came from workers at Capones. Especially Leila…who on FB claims to be their PR gal. she pissed off a lot of people on FB. his probation stems from felony domestic abuse. My FB group did some digging…most of us are none to happy with his shenanigans…most of us are deep rooted in Alameda…I am 4th generation myself. As for Alameda not being ready for change…hogwash. This guy started off by trying to poach his fellow bar owners bartendars in a drunken manner “hey wanna come work at a real bar?”…we don’t do that here in Alameda. period. He’s also the owner of Innovation Construction.

    Comment by Julie — September 2, 2014 @ 9:35 pm

  29. Can you say crash an burn….big time. At least the building got rehab’d for the next guy.

    Comment by JJ — September 2, 2014 @ 9:59 pm

  30. Thanks, Julie. I am not on FB, but just by clicking on the Japanese version of Yelp in the Google search results, I see this Leila H. posted more than 50 photos, purportedly of Capones [can’t read Asian characters, sorry]. And that 5-star review, which disses the rest of Alameda, was posted by some gal in…Brentwood???

    Felony domestic abuse, and he gets a liquor license, and sinks his teeth into a cop…sheesh.

    At tonite’s city council meeting, Nanette Mocanu just said that glossy new Alameda restaurant guide was “vetted” before publication…must be by the same people who “vetted” Capone’s

    Comment by vigi — September 2, 2014 @ 10:47 pm

  31. One thing that I think a lot of people are not considering- if this place fails. It will be a huge red flag to others thinking of opening businesses or investing good money here in Alameda. Despite what people say- Alameda does have a reputation and it is not so good toward new business. I once heard a person trying to open a business here call it “the empire of Alameda” and he was not complimenting the island. I agree that the grand opening was poorly handled, badly communicated to patrons and a re-boot is required but if I stopped patronizing every business that had an unpleasant person as an owner or tried to poach employees from another place or stopped supporting charity events where a person drank too much.. I am prepared to to wait for the bugs to shake out and then give it a shot.
    I have been very entertained by all the “in Alameda we don’t chatter …” as though living in Alameda conveys some instant sainthood. Think that we pretty much can all come up with a story about an alameda saint with clay feet (there are plenty of them).

    Comment by librarycat — September 3, 2014 @ 7:27 am

  32. This type of business is wrong for this town. It attracts trouble. Park Street management could have been better managed about allowing a business like this to open. It will close, but it won’t send any message, except the fact that large, alchohol places are not wanted or needed here.

    Comment by Bill — September 3, 2014 @ 8:16 am

  33. I think this one is DOA. But it will make for a lovely nail salon.

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — September 3, 2014 @ 8:46 am

  34. Librarycat:

    Alameda does have a reputation for being unfriendly to businesses (city govt, not the consumers) but anyone observing this sitch will know it’s self-inflicted.

    What is a concern, though, is that should it fail, it probably stays empty for a long time. That is not a positive for one of the town’s main intersections. A large and expensive space is a big hurdle for another restaurant to overcome. A place that big will need to have a LOT of action to make it pay.

    I won’t be a bit surprised if it fails, but I hope they succeed.

    Comment by dave — September 3, 2014 @ 9:07 am

  35. There are two words as to why we should try to support Capone’s, because if it doesn’t make it there is really only one business that has enough volume to support a location of that size:

    Cheesecake Factory.

    Do we really want that people?

    Comment by Lauren Do — September 3, 2014 @ 9:20 am

  36. Arrest incident aside, (I was not aware of this until yesterday) – I had no problems when I was there opening night and had a great time. I got there fairly early, got in with no problem as I was dressed up. I was there until they closed. Overall, I found the staff I interacted with to be very nice, although there did seem to be some minor glitches in the service and some confusion – had two different waitresses bring me stuff I didn’t order. The bands were great, although the music was too loud to really have a conversation. It would be great if they could kick that down a notch. The wine pours were generous, so I had no problem with the pricing of the drinks. They gave my friends and I free Manhattans that had been used to take a photo, which was nice. I had no prior position on this place opening or not, but clearly there is animosity between the sides on this issue – which I believe is driving a lot of the subsequent drama. Personally, I hope they fix the opening night issues and are successful.

    BTW – I wrote a positive review on Yelp and I don’t work for Capone’s. Not all the positive reviews were by employees.

    Comment by KT — September 3, 2014 @ 9:45 am

  37. 28. yeah Yelp reviews are often dubious, but this joint still has it’s boosters. I hate to see anybody squander such a huge investment, even a jerk. This guy has partners. When I heard there was a construction partner I guessed at Innovation, which seemed to pop up over night with a number of vans with full lettering, but that venture seemed to be better conceived and run. The HAB had a project on Broadway which I thought was owned by a principle of the company, but maybe they were just construction. It was a really well designed project even though it had max density which made some board members squirm. dave’s observation about empty frontage is salient. But the amount of bad publicity is really a sorry spectacle and unprecedented, but it’s hard not to hope the owners can at least reinvent and take another shot. Based on what they have done so far, I don’t have the confidence they are that fast on their feet, but one can hope. ( name change)

    Something which always puzzles me about retail store fronts are the improvements to the actual building. A restaurant can sell the business or sell off the fixtures, but the things which are nailed down belong to the property owner. The $2 million construction investment being claimed here is a huge amount to risk on something like a restaurant. Gives me a stomach ache just thinking about it.

    Comment by MI — September 3, 2014 @ 10:13 am

  38. Lauren, I like the Cheesecake Factory. To be honest I am not going to drive to Park St. unless I am meeting friends as I live in the West end. I go over there to see a movies.

    I hope it does make it, but I generally don’t go to bars or clubs. I went to Lucky 13’s for a special event once, and I have been to Forbidden Island twice. I disagree with Bill in # 32.”This type of business is wrong for this town. It attracts trouble.” I think it could be a fun nice place if they can turn it around. Maybe the focus should be on a excellent restaurant with a bar instead of a mediocre bar with a mediocre food.

    Hopefully they find their niche such as La Penca has. They seem to be trying to reach a large clientele base when maybe their focus should be starting with those who live within a 3 to 5 mile radius. Get rid of the dress code and make it more welcoming. If I lived in SF or Hayward I wouldn’t drive to Alameda to go to a bar or nightclub. I loved Angela’s but once they moved out of the West end I never went there. Hand out flyers and the Antique Fair each month and offer a great brunch with a discount if you show them your fair ticket…although that would probably work better if they were located on the West end.

    Comment by Joseph — September 3, 2014 @ 11:50 am

  39. You’ll find me at Julie’s … great food, good people, friendly atmosphere …

    Comment by ron — September 7, 2014 @ 6:53 pm

  40. They have their dress code on the website now, but they are also closing to the ‘public’ on 9/10 for a private party…wow these folks REALLY need to figure out how to run a business….

    Comment by can't believe people go — September 8, 2014 @ 6:23 pm


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