Competing for entertainment | November 23, 2012 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - November 23, 2012

Competing for entertainment

Congratulations to the Pleasanton Downtown Association and the city's Economic Vitality Committee for their three years of work in developing new guidelines for making downtown Pleasanton more attractive to nightlife and entertainment. Mired in outdated regulatory rules limiting nighttime operating hours to 10 p.m. without special, costly and time-consuming permits, revelers have increasingly been taking their business and money to nearby communities that seemed more inviting. The new guidelines, which already have the approval of the city's Planning Commission, are expected to gain another and final OK Tuesday from the Pleasanton City Council.

To capitalize on the natural attraction of Pleasanton's downtown and increase its economic vitality, the PDA launched the Downtown Hospitality Task Force in early 2010. Its mission was to research ways to enhance the experience of visitors to our downtown, to increase the number of patrons and to encourage evening vitality. A Downtown Hospitality Steering Committee was formed and asked to lead the task force through the process of developing a downtown hospitality plan. It noted that a hospitality district is a cheerful place, safe and inviting, with an active street life that welcomes people to shop and visit, and offers attractive private dining and entertainment venues.

The steering committee brought together 30 individuals from the different stakeholder groups affected by downtown activity, including restaurant owners, nearby residents, police officers, city planners, property owners, business owners and employees, entertainers and many others. Jim Peters, founder and president of the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI), was brought in to develop strategies for moving forward. His is a national organization that advises cities and business districts on creative ways to increase vitality and minimize potentially adverse effects.

The demographics are changing in the Tri-Valley with an increased number of people in the bookend generations of Baby Boomers who are now between 46 and 66 and the young adults under 30, the Gen Ys and Millennials. These groups are prime visitors to hospitality districts as they have leisure time and disposable income. When considered from a hospitality perspective, Peters and his RHI organization characterize the users of hospitality services as singles, who are generally young; mingles, which are social groups and clubs, families that desire day and early evening type activities; and jingles, who are business travelers, employees from nearby businesses and empty nesters with available time and money.

The hospitality steering committee also addressed job patterns in the Tri-Valley, which today are less confining than traditional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedules. More people here are working part time, flexible hours or telecommuting, giving them more time to go out during the day and later in the evening. Most people today also prefer a hospitality zone that is closer to home so they have less distance to walk or drive to get there. Those looking to move want to live near a place where there's some local street activity and entertainment as a lifestyle choice.

In proposing its new guidelines, the PDA and its steering committee recognized, too, that much like the retail and restaurant sectors, hospitality has become more competitive as cities like ours realize the benefits of supporting safe, inviting public spaces and private venues throughout the day and evening. According to RHI, the most successful cities start with a "how can we help you?" approach to make hospitality work. That's the essence of the new guidelines for Pleasanton that will make our town a competitive center for daytime and nighttime dining, shopping and entertainment.