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Bauerware; Profit Margins; Bing, Bing, Bing

Wednesday, May 10 2000
A few weeks ago, Harry squeezed off a roll of film at Michael Bauer's book signing up in Sonoma. The pictures of the mysterious critic turned out just fine -- in fact, there were a few great shots of our city's chosen arbiter of culinary justice. Bidding has been hot for the photos of Michael unmasked, but the top offer received thus far is just $200, a paltry sum compared to the potential power of changing a 2-1/2-star review into a three. So until such time as I get a serious offer for this valuable reference tool, Bauer will hang, gilt-framed on acid-free mat, in my well-appointed bathroom.

Profit Margins
In a town where restaurants pop up faster than bubbly in a flute, there is a strange trend rising to the surface: Restaurants are closing. Not because they're not successful, but because the spaces they occupy are now worth a lot more cash. I'm not trying to hit on high tech, but the influence of new money driving up commercial rents is undeniable. No one really mourns Entros now that it houses a foosball set and cubicles, nor Sunny Jim's (the former Stars Cafe), which is now a piano store (I'll have a spinet -- straight up). There are, however, a couple of South of Market spots that will be missed once the tables are replaced with cables and the game on the TV over the bar becomes an endless ticker tape.

Yes, Twenty Tank Brewery has succumbed. This favorite beer and grub hang for the past 10 years will house a yet-to-be-named dot-com (there has been a lot of interest, but no ink on the dotted line) by next month. A rent increase is the reason the place is closing and subleasing to some lucky start-up. Also seriously considering a generous offer to replace its ranges with rows of PCs is the cavernous Elroy's. This Boulder Concepts-owned property has seen its ups and downs, but has surely developed a devoted clientele over the years.

Meals may yet win out over software, but the trend of closures does bring an issue to the forefront. The restaurant business is not one of huge profitability. It is one of the nation's top employers and has the lowest percentage of gross to net. When you break that down into dollars earned per square foot -- well, there aren't a lot of restaurateurs getting rich. Many restaurants pay rent based on a percentage of sales. They can offer their landlords the occasional free meal, but that just can't match up to the top-dollar rents and low-hassle tenancy high-tech offers.

Bing, Bing, Bing
Hey jazzbos! It was great to see y'all at the Blue Note after-party at Bruno's last Saturday. This spot is going to be hot once more and, if this get-together was any sign, the sounds will most clearly be swingin'!

Know something Harry doesn't? E-mail and sweep the dirt out from under the rug.

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Harry Coverte

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