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Oakland business "strike" against rampant crime set for Tuesday

Oakland business to close or partially close as part of strike against crime
Oakland business to close or partially close as part of strike against crime 03:09

Over 200 Oakland businesses are preparing to go on strike Tuesday in a call for better public safety.

Some will be closed all day and some from 10 a.m. to noon, according to Carl Chan, longtime local business advocate and former president of the Chinatown Business Association.

They are planning to gather for a public press conference outside of Le Cheval restaurant at 10 a.m. The 38-year-old family business announced last week it will be closing because of a drop in business due to increased crime. This Saturday will be the restaurant's final day in business at the current location. 

Le Cheval will be joining the strike as well, owner Son Tran said.

On Monday afternoon, the restaurant was bustling with patrons who came to show their support before its planned permanent closure next weekend.  

"When I used to come here, we'd wait until the place closed down, and we'd leave," customer Nancy Ong said. "But now it's like, 'Oh, it's getting dark. Maybe we should leave now.' But we try to resist that because we know we have businesses to support."

"Le Cheval is a classic Oakland restaurant. It's really sad to see it close, and I'm going to have a last shot of the snake juice that was on my bucket list," said Aaron Burnham, another customer. 

"It's very sad. It's very tough to make the painful decision to shut it down because there are a lot of memories," Tran said. "I really don't blame the mayor of Oakland. I really don't blame anyone. They have to do their job, and it takes time to bring the crime rates down. But I ran out of money, and I got tired of the criminals around here."   

"We need to get additional resources from the county sheriff, the California Highway Patrol, and the FBI," said Chan. 

He also called for the involvement of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.

"Crimes have gotten out of hand. All these repeat offenders keep targeting many businesses, but also people," said Chan.

The strike comes on the heels of criticism directed at city leaders for missing a grant deadline that would have provided millions in state funding to help combat organized retail theft, a problem contributing to the challenges faced by local businesses.

Businesses are calling for financial resources from the city, county and governor to offset their losses.

"Small businesses are the biggest employers of the city," said Chan. "We're creating jobs, paying business tax, sales tax, property tax, income tax. We're all paying for it. There should be resources supporting the business community."

A new poll shows just how much crime is weighing on the minds of Oakland residents. The study found crime is overwhelmingly Oakland's top concern for 83% of respondents. 

The poll was released by a local advocacy and consulting firm the McConnell Group. They said it was "a wakeup call" to show Oakland's leaders what matters to voters.

According to the poll, 92% of residents want city leaders to focus on reducing crime. 74% feel that things in Oakland are headed in the wrong direction and that the quality of life in Oakland has gotten worse.

The study was conducted earlier this month.

Responding to Tuesday's strike called by over 200 Oakland businesses who want better public safety, Mayor Sheng Thao issued a statement Monday saying her office is working on the problem. 

"We welcomed the opportunity to meet with any business owner that wants to work on collective safety solutions alongside our office," she said in an email.

"I have been personally meeting with dozens of small business groups to fund and support initiatives that deter crime and promote safe streets," said Thao, mentioning groups that included the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, African American Chamber of Commerce, Oakland Chinatown Improvement Council, Visit Oakland and others.

Jose Martinez contributed to this report.

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