The new generation of Sacramento power brokers has organized behind a cause: saving Simon’s, the celebrated bar and restaurant on 16th Street that many people fear will eventually be torn down to make way for new development.
About two dozen of Simon’s loyal customers descended on the bar Monday night to stick up for the old haunt. Councilman Steve Hansen and Wendy Saunders, head of the state-run Capitol Area Development Authority, were on hand to answer questions.
The state owns the land Simon’s stands on and keeps the bar on a month-to-month lease. While any decision to redevelop the plot is likely a few years away, Saunders has acknowledged that CADA would like to eventually build housing on the site.
Large apartment buildings have opened along that stretch of 16th Street in recent months, and another 118-unit building is under construction a block from Simon’s. The bar’s neighbor – Mercury Cleaners – was torn down last year after the state found contaminated soil under the business.
Simon’s uncertain future sparked a fast-growing – and colorful – response on social media. A Facebook page called “Save Simon’s” has been “liked” by more than 1,000 people. One woman on a Facebook message string compared the fight to protecting Indian burial grounds, while most others simply stuck up for a place that has been a fixture in the city since 1984.
“We see the city changing, and I think it’s changing for the good, but we just need to protect the parts of the city that have been good for a long time,” said Adam Keigwin, a political consultant and Simon’s regular who has helped organize the bar’s defense movement. “Balancing the modern with the historic is what will make Sacramento great in the long term. Simon’s is important to the city and our history.”
The walls of the bar are covered with framed photographs of some of the city and state power elite who have patronized the joint, including Gov. Jerry Brown, Mayor Kevin Johnson, former state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and other lawmakers.
“If you’re a political junkie, this is the place to go,” Keigwin said.
Hansen asked that the bar’s supporters “be part of helping us figure out the solution.”
“There’s room for all of these things,” he said, referring to new development and old businesses.
Brian Ferguson, deputy director of public affairs for the state’s Department of General Services, said in an email there are no plans in the works to redevelop the site.
“Long story short, Capitol denizens will be able to enjoy their Brandy Fried Chicken and happy hour specials unabated for the foreseeable future,” he said.
Editor’s note (June 4): This post has been updated to correct the name of the Capitol Area Development Authority.