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Monday, December 8, 2008

SF "Nostrudamus" Weekly Update: Copia Copeth Not

Posted By on Mon, Dec 8, 2008 at 3:17 PM

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By Matt Smith

Paranoid fantasists consult the prophesies of Nostradamus for guidance on current events. The smart set, meanwhile, consults back issues of SF Weekly.

This publication firmly established its chops as a foreseer of the future this past summer, when marketers and law enforcement fulfilled a 2000 SF Weekly prediction by declaring energy beer a stupid idea.

This month a Napa-based $70 million epicurean playland called Copia confirmed the prescience of a 2002 SF Weekly article titled "What The Hell is Copia?" by never satisfactorily answering that question for potential visitors -- and thus going bankrupt.

Copia was supposed to be a sort of sophisticated foodie amusement park. It was announced with much fanfare seven years ago by vintner Robert Mondavi.

In 2002, SF Weekly feature writer Mark Athitakis declared Copia "an experiment, and a risky one."

Athitakis went on to explain that Mondavi's dream was endangered by the fact that Copia offered no concise argument as to why someone might pay the place a visit.

"Museums are supposed to be user-friendly places with simple missions -- art, modern art, science, aviation, shoes, glass. Copia, on the other hand, is about "celebrating the synergy of culinary and cultural expression." But what that means, exactly, is a little murky," Athitakis wrote. "At Copia, it seems to mean a little of everything: lectures on goat cheese, seminars on mustard, explorations of food packaging, screenings of vaguely food-related movies, photo exhibits of people eating lunch -- all explained in a brochure only slightly less complex than a college course catalog."

Athitakis captured pith of this confusion by chronicling an exchange between a confused tourist and a smug tourguide:

"What is Copia, please?" Athitakis quotes the tourist as asking.

"The tour guide smiles tightly

'It's like cornucopia,' he says. 'It's a lot of things.'"

However, unless Copia squirms out from under massive debt, it may soon not be anything at all.

According to the financial newspaper The Bond Buyer, Copia on Dec. 1 sought chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, having taken out $77 million in tax-exempt bonds without attracting even half the audience it expected.

"It has lost money since opening in 2001, posting a $12.7 million loss in 2006," the Bond Buyer article said.

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Matt Smith

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