Unfortunately, we are faced with this sordid cement scenario involving the destruction of a beloved (and greasy) link to this here Poinsettia City’s past. Of course, I’m talking about the latest carpetbagger developer effort to destroy the oldest continually operating hot dog stand in the 805 in return for some unnamed future development — undoubtedly some hideous, cookie cutter, Taco Bell look-alike clowndominium that will enable even more jerks from L.A. to move up here, making this place more like the place they just left. That’s irony, and also greed, stupidity and disingenuousness.
But what about the revenue to be generated for the poor, poor city in future property taxes? Of course, and then they could give the money to the tourism bureau that could induce yet another wave of El Aliens to move up here, further destroying our quality of life. Let’s get one thing straight: What do we owe those who don’t live here yet? Right, not a damn thing. And what do we owe this property owner, Mr. Watling from Santa Barbara? Nothing — he owes us. He owes us our past, our memories and our expanding waistlines, thanks to all those wonderful chili burgers.
Our darn fine but strangely silent Council People have the technology (and more importantly, the power) to end this right now. They need to forthwith declare the obvious — designate the Top Hat a historical landmark worthy of preservation, which it is anyway, and save us all this unnecessary exposition. And as to Councilman Jim Monahan — time to step up. He’s been on the council for 6,000 years or since sun downs were in black and white and chili dogs were actually a health food. Time for him to be on the right side of a development issue for once in his life — just once. His campaign signs were on the Top Hat during the last several elections — they helped him. Time for him to help his fellow locals. What does he owe Watling and his annoying mouthpiece, Susan Blake Wade? Why are they more important to Monahan than his own constituents? Mayor Fulton and Councilmen Morehouse and Andrews — you’re all cool guys. Show us what ya got.
The line needs to stop here with the Top Hat — right here, right now. The incremental destruction of our beloved town as one seemingly benign decision follows another, however seemingly innocuous at the time, makes the following step both logical and necessary, to the point where we now have pay parking at our own beaches, pay parking coming soon to a downtown near you, and this enduring, creepy and creeping cancer — this soul-sucking gentrification, this disgusting yuppiefication of Ventura. It’s time to halt this chain of unfortunate events and do the right thing — the right thing for us, not to us.
Look at Huntington Beach; been there lately? Once upon a time Surf City was cool, a little funky beach town — now, it’s lamer than lame or, as Dean Torrence of Jan and Dean fame said, “If you have money and own property, it’s great.” There it is again. Money talks, locals squawk. The argument for property rights over the public good is a rich guy’s scam and ain’t nothin’ but greed misspelled.
We need the Top Hat, not necessarily gastronomically, but culturally. It’s been here forever — no one knows for sure how long. In my mom’s yearbook from Ventura High in 1939, there’s an ad for a sandwich-slash-hamburger joint called the Top Hat. Of course, you can’t eat at the Top Hat every day — you would surely die — but once every couple of months, you must. They have the best cheeseburgers in the western hemisphere. And for decades, they elevated the income of local cardiologists.
Also, last time this happened — remember Jimmy Mesa, Mr. Ventura? The Top Hat was promised relocation, but that’s too much trouble, all that moving and such. I have a better idea: leave it alone. Sure, being a renter sucks, but destroying a tasty hunk of Ventura’s past is a crime. The Ventura City Council needs to declare the Top Hat historically important, eat there now and again, build around it if they must, but in any case, leave it alone. The Top Hat needs legal help right now, so if you’re a lawyer, do the right thing.
Bill Locey is a music columnist for the VCStar and a former columnist for the VCReporter.