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The Geisha bar in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, July 14, 2010.(Anda Chu/Staff)
A Baptist church in Kansas evidently decided that Christmas was a good time to launch a website called, "God hates the Media." People angry with the press: What else is new?
There are several ways to answer that question. For example, Geisha, Nex, Miel and Feelmore510, an "adult store" on Telegraph Avenue. All four opened in Oakland this year, the first decade of the 21st century. Another half-dozen or more restaurants, bars and clubs opened since January, although Oakland will have to wait until 2011 to find out if those 5 a.m. club permits are ever going to kick in.
In the meantime, here are the highlights from 2010. Era Art Bar Lounge on Grand Avenue started the year off with DJs, local art on the walls and a generally lipstick-and-jacket crowd sitting on handcrafted chaises under handblown light fixtures listening to smooth beats. It's the kind of place where a Drambuie on the rocks seems just as ordinary as a shot of Pig's Nose scotch, a glass of Hoopla chardonnay or a bottle of Anchor Steam beer. Dancing is encouraged. Beer Revolution opened about the same time -- February -- but is a different breed. People in black jeans and dreadlocks sip pints of beer with clever names like Misspent Youth Pale Ale and Death and Taxes Lager. "We want to make Oakland a great beer town," declared co-owner Mark Martone when the bottle-shop tavern opened on Third Street. Nearly a year later, Beer Revolution attracts swarms of beer drinkers. The Souley Vegan restaurant (2009) next door delivers Southern fried tofu and cornbread to them. Goodbye Serenader. Hello, Heart and Dagger Saloon, which opened in February with the slogan "good spirits for bad people." The owners of the new watering hole on Lakeside Drive began with one aspiration in mind: to become "the cheapest drink in town." Opponents argue that the word Geisha, originally applied to highly trained Japanese entertainers, reinforces a racist, sexist image of Asian and Asian-American women as submissive sex objects. But the 14th Street bar Geisha managed to open -- and so far stay open -- with the name intact and a hip-hop vibe. More than one old-time Oakland Tribune reporter replaced their desk with the closest bar. I would replace a bar with Uncle Dougie's Heroes on 17th Street. Uncle Dougie stays open late on weekends, delivers to the Layover Lounge on busy nights and the "chicken parm" heroes have the stamp of authenticity from New York reporters. My next favorite ersatz office would be Nex -- preferably at the bar or perched upstairs. The Webster street neighborhood bistro opened in July and is named for its proximity to Mua. They are next door to each other and share owners. But they have little else in common. Local reporters have also been spotted at Liege on Ninth Street. The Old Oakland lounge is the third venture for the owners Kiri Eschelle and Dirk Kahl and stands less than a block away from their flagship locale, Levende East on Washington Street. To quote a patron, who was not a journalist: "Even outside, it felt all good and sexy." Pabst Blue Ribbon drinkers rub elbows with connoisseurs who discern between Angostura and Peychaud's bitters at Room 389, which opened in August on Grand Avenue. The walls are dark wood. In the back is a lounge lined with pale green sofas and chocolate brown leather arm chairs. It's Hemingway with a reggae soundtrack. This summer, the mother-son team Gloria and Alfonso Dominguez took over the vegetarian restaurant on Eighth Street next door to Tamarindo, knocked down the wall between them and created Miel. The tequila bar feels more like a really hip living room than a business -- with olive green sofas, benches hewed from dark wood and a wall shipped from Mexico in a pink hue that is unmistakable in its origin. Bar Three Fifty-Five is a 19th Street lounge that mingles Las Vegas with Hollywood. But it is hormones as much as décor that has kept the place humming since August. Guys say they go there for the cute chicks. The women say the bar has the hottest bartenders. Decide for yourself.
Contact Angela Woodall at 510-208-6413. Follow her at Twitter.com/angelawoodall or Facebook.com/angelawoodall.