downtown oakland
Downtown Oakland circa 1910

10k residents, 10k partiers?

February 13, 2009

In last Friday’s euphoria of the DTO’s renaissance, a downtowner commented that there were 10,000 people downtown. Now, of course, 10k gets thrown around a lot when it comes to the DTO, but the sheer, attention-getting scale of such a crowd was both appealing and plausible. So, I decided to do a bit of digging to see if that was true. In fact, it probably was roughly true during February’s first Friday night.

The maximum capacity of the new Fox is 2800 swells, the Paramount seats 3040 patrons, the Uptown holds 575 fans, and the small live theaters (Oakland Metro Operahouse and Café Van Kleef) combined probably add another 500 bodies. So, with all the packed restaurants and bars, and of course the Art Murmur, there probably were about 10k visitors to the DTO last week. Altogether, the live performance venues downtown have a total maximum capacity of almost 7000 people.

Under Oakland’s fire code, the capacity of a restaurant or nightclub with only one exit is 49, essentially limiting each storefront to 50 customers. Assuming two turnovers before a show (and music shows are more casually-scheduled than, say, an opera), that’s about 100 theater-goers served per restaurant, permitting up to 70 restaurants supported solely by theater-goers to be packed to capacity on show nights. And of course many people go out to dinner even without visiting a theater, perhaps including some of the thousands of people expected to move downtown as projects like the Uptown Apartments and The Grand fill up. Then there are nightclubs, Chinatown restaurants, DJ bars, and art galleries.

Restaurants like Flora and Mua opened in anticipation of the Fox, and were immediately successful even without the extra 2800 people that will now populate Uptown five nights a week. Aside from popular but occasional events like the Art Murmur, the draw of the existing nightlife and the reputation of some downtown restaurants will continue to bring gourmands and daters to the DTO. As the Uptown neighborhood takes shape as an entertainment destination, we can expect visitors from across the city as well as the dreaded “bridge and tunnel” crowd to seek out the DTO. Which of course makes sense, since downtown is by definition and in actuality the hub of the regional transportation system.

Geisha, a two-story dance club on 14th, will open soon. Tablehopper has some details about Levende’s new venture in Old Oakland. This year will see the debut of Pican, next door to Ozumo, and rumors are flying that closed or under-populated nightclubs in Uptown and the City Center area are in negotiations with aspiring owners. Despite the financial freeze preventing further commercial or residential development, and the sometimes ham-handed civic leadership causing protests and bad PR in the DTO, its emergence as a regional nightlife destination has only begun.