Zoning law aficionados have no doubt been captivated by the recent troubles of The Spot, an upcoming “on-sale beer and wine eating place” (as the posted note described it, casting serious doubt on the proprietor’s command of the king’s English) on Pardall Road. While some of us feel sorry for the prospective restaurant’s owners, who do not hold a permit, this might not turn out to be such a bad development for them after all. At this point, those who would dare to open an eatery near the UCSB campus have the deck stacked against them by a truly unforgiving phenomenon: market saturation.
Isla Vista is not a big place. This does not come as news to those of us who have ever tried to park anything larger than a Geo there. However, unlike residents of any other town its size, the hungry Isla Vistan is king: For various reasonable prices, one can easily purchase ice cream, sushi, tacos, pitas, sandwiches, teriyaki, fries, pasta, soup, curry, salad, burgers, pizza and toffee almond bars within a peripatetic half hour. Healthy competition has spoiled the consumer for choice, but with this bounty comes diminishing returns; what share of the market can additional purveyors of edibles hope to stake out for themselves?
Whatever kind of food The Spot is meant to serve — you try figuring it out from the name — it’s going to have one hell of a rough go filling a niche. The collegian, not a picky eater by any measure, already has his major food groups covered by the likes of Giovanni’s and, come 3:00 a.m., Freebirds. On-sale beer and wine aside, this new kid on the block had better be open at least 25 hours a day and have invented some sort of comestible more stoner-friendly than the burrito. Good luck, guys.
The sheer amount of extant food purveyors means that it’s going to be a rougher road to hoe for each new one with ever-decreasing rewards at the end of the rainbow. However — and this is a highly technical point, I realize — there are other types of businesses to open besides restaurants. There’s one I’ve practically felt Isla Vista aching for since the day I arrived at UCSB: a bookstore.
What’s that, you say? Isla Vista has a bookstore? Oh, yes, I seem to have forgotten about that gem, the I.V. Bookstore. I suppose if your idea of the outcome of a good book-shopping session is a frisbee, a hoodie and a partially highlighted sociology textbook, your niche is already being filled.
So anyway, this neighborhood could really use a bookstore. Considering the masses of eager buyers who flock to each and every one of the UCen and library book sales, there’s clearly a demand going, for the most part, sadly untapped. Countless have been the times that I’ve strolled through Isla Vista, longing for a place into which to duck and browse through shelf after shelf of cheap, used tomes. Science fiction, history, classics, mystery, fantasy, Japanese surrealism, and — my personal favorite — economics: You name it, you can’t get it in I.V.
Recently, a petition was circulating in favor of opening a library branch in Isla Vista. Close, but no cigar. While that would at least provide a place to surround oneself with the printed word, a public library deviates significantly from the oh-so-desirable feel of a used bookshop, chiefly because said oh-so-desirable atmosphere typically doesn’t include clusters of cranky five-year-olds screaming for m