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By Jeb Bing

Downtown Pleasanton has special appeal

Uploaded: Jun 22, 2013

Pleasanton Downtown Association director Laura Olson wowed Realtors last week with her report of measures being taken to brighten nightlife in the city's downtown and add diversified restaurants and shops that appeal to a broader range of diners and shoppers.

The city's new Hospitality Guidelines, approved by the Pleasanton City Council, now allow alcoholic beverages to be sold until 11 p.m. any night, an hour later than before, and without any special permits that used to take restaurant applicants months to obtain at significant costs. Even the allowable decibel level has been raised so that small bands, combos and individual musicians can play at any downtown restaurant or store to their heart's content and throughout the day. Olson said a retailer who wanted to add musical talent to attract shoppers was often discouraged by the long wait time required to get a city permit.

Olson told members of the Valley Real Estate Network that the PDA will hold 48 events this year, including its popular First Wednesday street parties and Friday night Concerts in the Park, both which are attracting thousands to downtown Pleasanton through September. The PDA's five-year plan lists 77 action items to boost downtown businesses where scores of retailers and restaurateurs are on waiting lists for available space. In Farmers Market, alone, Olson said more than 300 vendors are waiting for spaces to open.

New businesses come and go in Pleasanton's downtown as in other cities, she said. Acadia Health, a newly established natural health store, just opened at 608 Main St. and Workbench Main Street, a branch of the well-known hardware store in Mission Plaza at Valley Avenue and Santa Rita Road, will open in the former Domus store at the end of August. The franchise holders of Round Table Pizza lost their franchise and closed two weeks ago, but the property owner already has new prospects seeking the space, including one that may open a Round Table Pizza there again. A new wine bar will soon open on Railroad Avenue, a Corner Crepery has signed for a store on Main Street and a Carob Ice Cream store will open shortly in Tully's Plaza, which Coldstone left this spring.

Asked how Pleasanton's downtown compares to Livermore's, Olson said the two are strikingly different although both complement each other. Both Olson and Livermore Downtown's executive director Rachael Snedecor sit on the board of the California Main Street Association, both are involved in their respective community organizations, including the chambers of commerce and historic preservation efforts, and the two organizations occasionally co-sponsor downtown shopping events with seasonal sales promotions in each city.

Still, the ambiance is different with Pleasanton offering a true historic atmosphere with buildings dating well back into the 19th century. Livermore, on the other hand, benefited from millions of dollars through a redevelopment agency, which paid for rebuilding First Street and adding new amenities, including the Bankhead Theater and the acquisition of land for an even larger performing arts center. RDAs, which Pleasanton never had, have since been declared illegal which means cities such as Livermore that were counting on those funds must find other sources to continue projects it had planned.

Nightlife is also different in the two communities, Olson said. Livermore appeals to a younger crowd with a downtown movie theater as a key attraction. Although Pleasanton residents, in a survey, said they want more similarly exciting attractions in our downtown, when consideration was under way of the Hospitality Guidelines measure, many told the PDA and City Council they didn't want a downtown filled with teenagers or bars that would be open late at night. As a result, Olson, the PDA and the City Council took a more moderate approach, extending the time for alcoholic beverages to be served to 11 p.m. across the board but continuing tight controls on which establishments can remain open later.

"So we're always running and moving to make our downtown appealing, exciting and diversified," Olson told the Realtors to loud applause.