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on Jul 17, 2007
Rory Brown is to be commended for writing the first balanced article about the recent issues at the Allied Arts Guild.Unfortunately, this article is in reality an obituary of a beloved community resource.Cause of death: Hubris and chronic mismanagement.
I find it appalling that the guild management has not even attempted to talk with neighbors or to tap into the energy and creativity of the broader community to solve the current problems. There were many offers made in the past by Allied Arts neighbors to help the guild be financially successful. Why not try now? Not to do so is a real tragedy.
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?
I am so saddened by the fact that this could possibly be happening to this beautiful serene place. If the auxillary is not capable of continuing to keep this historical complex alive then they should be hiring a firm to do it for them. I cannot understand how this has a evolved when Allied Arts was a successful mainstay in Menlo Park for so many years.If someone is not a good steward of their charge then they need to be removed and someone who is capable needs to replace them. This is as nicely as I can convey my strong feelings on this matter. For a wonderful place like this to be ruined is no acceptable.
Thank you Rory, for your article on the state of things at Allied Arts Guild.
As one of artists of Portola Art Gallery, now residing at the historic grounds of AAG, I appreciate the turmoil among all parties and have an invested interest in keeping the doors open, not only to our gallery, but more importantly to the grounds where artists for 78 years have been able to create, people have been able to share in the creative process and children have come to learn about the arts, where they are not able to in schools anymore. Not only do we at the Portola Art Gallery exhibit our work, yes for sale, but many of us paint on the Allied Arts Guild property, preserving the beauty of the gardens and architecture in paint on canvas, or with photos, for future generations. Please remember that the artisans, florists, jewerly makers, painters at the complex are keeping with the original spirit of the place and the arts are alive at Allied Arts Guild. Come by and see what we do, enjoy a beautiful stroll through the gardens and say Hello!
Sincerely, Kim Lordier Artist
Seems that the obituary is premature.
Despite the efforts of Allied Arts neighbors to kill the venue, there is an exciting new restaurant, and the private events calendar is FULLY BOOKED.
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