On the whole, Mr. Brown’s report on the Allied Arts Guild is well balanced, and accurate. However, the statements made by Ms. Coblentz, president of the Allied Arts Auxiliary, are self-serving in that they tell only the story she wants published.
She notes that “a new restaurant was needed to inject new life into the guild,” and states that “the Palo Alto Auxiliary (PAA) could only do so much with a restrictive three-course menu and a shortage of volunteers.” Actually, they did quite well with their three-course meal and two light-lunch options prepared by a chef honored by Gentry Magazine for his excellent cuisine at the Allied Arts restaurant. Perhaps Ms. Coblentz means by “so much” that the restaurant didn’t offer coffee and donuts in the mornings or afternoons. Regarding staffing, Palo Alto recognized the growing maturity of its volunteer restaurant staff and had begun recruiting new volunteers at the time Ms. Coblentz terminated the lease.
Ms. Coblentz also conveniently ignores the fact that as a result of the Woodside Atherton Auxiliary’s (WAA) seeking a variance to extend operational hours for the facility in pursuit of non-existent meeting and conference business, the final usage permit for the site restricted public restaurant hours to 10 am to 5 pm, and the lease from WAA further limited those hours to 3 pm on weekdays for PAA. In other words, the only meal that could be served was lunch. Those limits still exist, and any new restaurant will be bound by them.
Also a non-topic from Ms. Coblentz is the dramatic drop in visitors to Allied Arts after it reopened (from an extensive and expensive restoration) in late 2005. Bus traffic disappeared because a redesign of the main parking lot no longer left room for buses to turn around. Tenants didn’t return as quickly as hoped, and the new “mix” of retail and artistic shops didn’t draw visitors as well as in the past. WAA also unilaterally assumed responsibility for “special events” held at the complex, an area traditionally the responsibility of PAA, and the WAA revolving-door of event coordinators never really was successful in attracting this business.
Any new restaurant will have to function under the same usage restrictions imposed on the Palo Alto Auxiliary restaurant. They will also have to pay their staff—cooks, waiters, busboys and managers. They are not likely to contribute their tips to Children’s Hospital. With only lunch service, and no alcoholic beverages (no wine, beer or cocktails), it’s hard to image how any restaurant will be able to make money. And unlike the Palo Alto-staffed restaurant, none of them will contribute more than $100,000 a year to Children’s Hospital.
In light of the above, how was WAA’s termination of the lease for the Palo Alto Auxiliary’s restaurant a good deal for anyone?