Look Who’s Partying in Oakland Now

That’s right: The Town is ground zero for fun-seeking San Franciscans.


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Photo by dino graniello


If you’ve been in Uptown lately, you’ve probably surveyed the hordes of people crowding the bars, overflowing the restaurants, filling the sidewalks, lining up at the nightclubs, and wondered, “My God, who are all these people? Where did they come from?

”Sit down, dear Oaklanders. Those people you see frolicking on Telegraph Avenue are from, yes, San Francisco. After 150 years of San Franciscans refusing to visit their friends across the Bay, thousands of them are now venturing to Oakland for nightlife. Whether it’s for a show at the Fox Theater or dinner before a Warriors game, they’ve discovered what we’ve known all along: Oakland is fun. And it’s easier to park.

“Yes, I love San Francisco, but Oakland has a lot of momentum right now,” said LeBaron Meyers, a San Francisco resident and a vice president at UrbanDaddy, who comes to Oakland nearly every weekend. “Oakland has so much more diversity. It’s not just the people; it’s the art, the food, the music. It’s just more unpredictable. … My favorite thing on a Saturday morning is to come to Lake Merritt and go to the farmers’ market. I look around and think, ‘God, I love it here.’”

No one knows exactly how many San Franciscans are heading east for nightlife, but according to Visit Oakland, the number of tourists from other Bay Area cities has been increasing significantly every year. Last year, Oakland welcomed more than 2.6 million overnight visitors and millions more “local tourists” who didn’t spend the night.

“San Franciscans are half our business,” said Brick Loomis, general manager at the Uptown restaurant Flora. “It’s huge. And we’re grateful for it. The Fox, the Paramount, the New Parish—these are all drawing people from The City. They come over, they stay for dinner, check out the bars, see what’s here. It’s great.”

Some San Franciscans have standing reservations at Flora for the entire Oakland Speaker Series at the Paramount Theatre, he said. Others come before concerts. Some prefer quiet dinners on Sunday. But there’s no question, he said: The San Franciscans are here in large numbers.

The results are obvious to anyone who’s been downtown lately. Bars and restaurants are packed nearly every night of the week. According to the Lake Merritt/Uptown District Association, more than 100 new bars, restaurants, cafes, and other businesses have opened in Uptown and Downtown the past two years.

It’s not just San Franciscans, of course. It’s couples on “date night” from Walnut Creek. It’s Marinites checking out Art Murmur. It’s ladies-night-out crowds from Fremont. It’s people from all over the Bay Area who work downtown and want to relax after a long day. There are dozens of venues to choose from, all within walking distance of BART.

Michael LeBlanc, owner of Picán, said he thinks two factors are driving the surge in out-of-town visitors. One is that Oakland residents are inviting their friends to explore the richness of the city, not just Uptown and downtown but also Glenview, Fruitvale, Temescal, and other less-traveled neighborhoods. Two is the national recognition of Oakland’s dining scene.

“If you’re a foodie, Oakland is probably the hottest market in the country right now,” he said. “People are coming here from San Francisco, Danville, the Peninsula, Mill Valley, because they want to see what all the attention is about. Then they get here and they want to explore more. We have so much to offer.”

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