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Why Max’s City Center Oakland Restaurant Closing Is A Big Deal In Local Politics

Max’s City Center Oakland Restaurant is closed, and has been since just after the start of the year. This Oakland blogger has been away in Georgia keeping his Mom company, and yet maintaining a life in the real town of the Warriors. So, the news that Max’s City Center Oakland Restaurant closed came to me via the video-blog you see above. It was a shock.

Max’s City Center Oakland Restaurant has been, for years, the place for Oakland politicians to meet and to eat. My history with Max’s City Center Oakland Restaurant goes back to 1996, when the owners tool over the space once occupied by my friend Steve Wuebbens. Steve owned the equally popular restaurant Gertrude Stein. Named after the famous novelist and East Oakland dweller, who once said of Oakland “There’s no there there.”

At the time he established his restaurant at the then new Oakland City Center, Steve told me he was a believer in Oakland’s potential, and was excited to be a part of the growth of Oakland’s downtown. Gertrude Stein, the restaurant, rewarded Steve’s belief in Oakland by being the “there” in Downtown Oakland. It was common for Oakland City Councilmembers to have a drink or two, or three, before an Oakland City Council meeting. And depending on the length of the meeting, they would come back there.

Then, and sadly, Steve’s restaurant closed. And it did for many of the same reasons that are alleged to be the reasons why Max’s City Center Oakland Restaurant closed its doors according to Hoodline: default on the lease, sudden closing, leaving employees upset, confused, and broke.

Max’s, known for it’s deli-style restaurants in San Francisco, stepped in and took over the space in 1996 – and remained ever since until this year. Max’s City Center Oakland Restaurant helped me by providing a great set of food and dinner and wine offerings that cost me $120 each month for six months, and for my Oakland Downtown Coalition in 1997. Max’s basically helped pave the way for the AC Transit Downtown Oakland Bus Center that exists today.

There are so many stories I have about Max’s Oakland, they could fill a book. I’ll write a follow-up or three on the history of this place. It’s closing signals a sad change – in Oakland politics. It s a sign of a lack of meetings where Oakland political types can find ways to work together. Instead, we get wars between Oakland councilmembers plotting to take down each other. We didn’t have that kind of behavior back then. That was one example, really, of how times were better from a perspective of civility in Oakland, and in America.

Stay tuned.

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