HAYWARD -- When the Thompkins family looked into setting up a restaurant and entertainment venue downtown, they expected to run into some resistance.
And they did.
At the Planning Commission hearing and in front of the City Council, a fair share of community members expressed concerns that the ME Restaurant and Lounge could attract a "bad element" to the area.
But they also had their backers -- including half the Planning Commission, which split evenly on the application, and a majority of the City Council, which took an optimistic view at what such a nightspot could bring to downtown.
After opening last month, the Thompkins family says they are getting a similar mixed reaction from the public and their neighbors.
"One couple came in just to bash us," said Traci Thompkins, the restaurant's manager. "They were going up to customers and telling them to go to (another downtown venue) instead."
And while handing out fliers at Southland Mall, someone had a comment very similar to one that made Traci's mother, Monica Thompkins, bristle at a City Hall meeting.
"I was telling him about our taco Thursday event, and the first thing he said was, 'Is it gonna be ghetto?' " said Traci Thompkins with some exasperation. "Not 'Are the tacos going to be good?' or even a question about the cocktails. Just 'Is it gonna be ghetto?' "
Thompkins said they have a diverse crowd on event nights, with ages spanning from their early 20s
Performers have included a radio DJ, and R&B acts are planned -- the entertainment that people told the City Council they feared would bring the "bad element."
But police confirmed that there haven't been any problems at the club, and Thompkins said they have enough security to make sure no one loiters around to cause trouble.
Earlier this month, they filled the club to its 243-person capacity, but couldn't get the local draw -- only about 10 were from Hayward, Thompkins said.
"We realized this might happen when we were at the City Council meeting," she said. "It's expected, but we also hoped people would give us a chance to show that we're here to make downtown better. We want to be part of the revitalization."
She said they are devoting Sundays to all ages community-oriented events, such as a hair show, a dance show featuring elementary school kids, and a Latino heritage celebration.
And they still have their supporters. Thompkins said some of their neighbors have been very enthusiastic, and they're starting to see some regulars.
"We're really hoping those guys do well," said Sean Brooks, the city's economic development manager. "Any time there's something new, something that hasn't been done before, there's going to be an initial shock factor."
Patriarch Joe Thompkins said renovating the space and getting the needed permits came at no small cost, and as such they are vested in Hayward.
"The bottom line is that we're here and we plan on staying here," he said.
The ME Restaurant and Lounge is at 926 B St., between Mission and Main streets.