On the eve of my most recent birthday, I had the opportunity to attend my friend, Rick Dean’s première performance at The Station Lounge in Roseville. He offered marvelous music and charming banter, worthy of a large crowd; however, there were only a few people present, most of whom were his family and friends. It was 9:00 PM on a Saturday night in July, with cool, beautiful weather in a 4,620 square foot building, charmingly developed out of rail cars and good taste. Where was the crowd?
Within the hour, I heard a story that explained the vast emptiness. It was beyond belief. It was a story not all together unfamiliar to me, though, as I had first read about it in the Sacramento News & Review (SN&R) only the day before. The July 14, 2011 article, entitled “Footloose in Roseville,” reflects on the downward spiral that The Station, and its owner, known only as Travis, has seen burgeon in the last year since the City of Roseville Planning and Development director, Paul Richardson, and his team revamped the zoning requirements a year ago. This rezoning, and the subsequent ordinance amendment, prohibits dancing without the correct permits. These changes are purportedly to prevent nightclubs within 500 feet of residential areas from impinging on the quiet of local citizens. The only problem is that since Travis and his team took over The Station in 2008, there have only been two complaints. Two.
According to the City of Roseville Planning and Redevelopment website, restaurants must apply for a zoning clearance permit for any dancing that is not school, church, or non-profit agency related. The Station, currently zoned as Residential Commercial, is subject to this ordinance. According to Travis, he has applied for zoning as Community Commercial, which facilitates dance permits. The problem is that Travis must attend hearings for the zoning change, and the red tape keeps growing by hills and mountains.
During the planning stages, the ordinance, amending Chapter 9.40 of the Municipal Code, described “no significant fiscal impact.” They must have been talking about impact on the city, because there has been a huge impact to The Station. According to the SN&R article, The Station’s manager, Brian Vokal, reported that they are losing $7,000 per month in revenue from this ordinance, and $11,000 in fines. “Fines?” you ask. Yes, fines. Nearly nightly, Roseville police officers arrive to inspect the premises to ensure that no one is dancing at The Station; or more specifically, that no “movement of the human body accompanied by music or rhythm,” occurs. This is the verbatim language in the ordinance; language used on the required notice posted on the door of the establishment. In other words, if music is playing, no one can dance, tap their foot, snap their fingers, be-bop to the lavatory, or anything else. One must sit still as the music plays. If there is silence, apparently, one can dance up a storm, perhaps to the level of the whirling dervishes. This requirement is not just theory.
Travis related a story that one evening, during a police visit, an elderly woman unfamiliar with the issues at hand, began walking to the bathroom. As she was doing so, she began swaying to the music playing over the speakers. As she passed a table full of regular patrons, one of them took her arm, seated her in a chair, and explained the situation, narrowly avoiding yet another fine for The Station.
Why is this transpiring? Is The Station Lounge, at 1100 Orlando Avenue in Roseville, a haven for drug dealing, violence, racism, or bad taste? No, no, no, and no. The beautiful facility welcomes everyone who wants to have a good time, be respectful, enjoy delicious food, listen to music, and hopefully, dance someday. The focus of the evenings throughout the week include, Country night, Latin night, an evening for those of us “of a certain age,” and those who enjoy drag shows. The Station and its owners, Travis and his wife, Gail, are genuinely welcoming when one arrives at their establishment. The serving staff and managers treat their customers as respected friends.
Jeff Nichols, a relatively recent addition to The Station community, said that when he first came in, he felt, “so welcome, learning to Western Country swing dance,” before the ordinance took effect. He animatedly reflected how much he loves that, “every night is different” at The Station Lounge.
So, if The Station is such a grand place to meet and have fun in a safe environment, then what is going on? One might want to ask Paul Richardson, the director of the Office of Planning and Development for the City of Roseville. He and his team have invested in the redevelopment of the historic section of downtown Roseville. It’s lovely… and empty. Not the best investment so far of $13 million, one might say. The fascinating part of this development is that restaurants and nightclubs in the redeveloped area are exempt from the “no dance” ordinance. A $13 million redeveloped, historic downtown – no ordinance. An established place of business outside the redeveloped section – ordinance.
The worst part of this is that the person who spearheaded this ordinance was Paul Richardson. This is the same Paul Richardson who pushed through the $13 million dollar redevelopment of Historic Roseville. One would think that in this economy, Roseville would be deeply interested in elevating every business to increase tax revenue, transportation and entertainment revenue, and diversity-friendly environments in the area. When a smaller community is so close to a larger metropolis, such as Sacramento, one surmises that a city like Roseville would rush to support its own activities and draw people from surrounding areas, such as Lincoln, Citrus Heights, and Folsom to their fair burg. It seems that Roseville is more interested in bringing people to only one part of town. The only problem, no one is coming. One must wonder if The Station is suffering from the putrid stench of conflict of interest and bad planning festering in the City Planning and Redevelopment office. But, how would I know? I’m not a lawyer, Roseville community leader, or even a resident of this lovely town. I will say, though, that it sure smells unpleasant from here. A friend of mine, Judy, who is more well-versed on these types of matters than I, and not given to hyperbole, wrote about this topic, “I find this idiocy upsetting and think it should be exposed for the lunacy it is. Agree? Land of the free? Not in Roseville, CA.”
So, what happens to The Station Lounge? Time will tell. As the fines get paid, the zoning hearings move forward, and the stalwart patrons quietly, and with as little movement as possible, attempt to keep this business… and their community… alive, Roseville Police daily continue to spend their precious time, often reluctantly, if patrons’ descriptions are believed, observing and fining this venue for the crime of dancing.
Everyone who hears this tale reiterates the SN&R correlation to the 1984 movie, “Footloose.” Only in this case, Paul Richardson is John Lithgow’s character, Reverend Shaw Moore; The Station owner, Travis is Lori Singer’s character, Ariel Shaw, the person who supports the lead character; and Kevin Bacon’s character, Ren McCormack is played by a swingin’ elderly lady on her way to the bathroom.