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July 20, 2009

WC city staff not crazy about the Dudums’ plans to transform 1515 Restaurant and Lounge into a nightclub

Last week, I reported on how Jack and Sylvia Dudum, of the extended Dudum family of Walnut Creek-based restaurant and real-estate moguls, were accused in, IMO, a rather strange scam.


According to an ABC-7 I-team report and public records, this alleged fraud involved them claiming to be full-time taxicab drivers in San Francisco in order to secure prized permits—or medallions, as they are called. These medallions allow full-time cab drivers--which, again, the Dudums claimed to be—to potentially earn thousands of dollars extra a year leasing out their permits to other drivers, during those hours when they are supposedly not behind the wheel.


The couple together own more than $15 million in property, from stores and a warehouse, to two condos on a Palm Desert golf course, according to Noyes and the complaints filed with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority. This real estate includes a 5,500-square-foot, $3 million home off Alamo’s Livorna Road, and about $6 million in property in downtown Walnut creek, including, it turns out, 1515 Restaurant and Lounge on North Main Street.

Each were charged with 12 counts of fraud, face more than $200,000 in fines each, and must appear for a disciplinary hearing on August 7.


Just as news about these legal troubles, resurfaced (they've been brewing since 2007), the couple have turned up on the agenda for Thursday night’s Planning Commission meeting as the movers and shakers behind a plan to turn the 1515 Restaurant Bar and Lounge into a two-story night club, complete with a DJ, live entertainment, and dancing on both floors. They also want permission to expand hours of alcohol service on both floors to 1:45 a.m.


Jack and Sylvia Dudum are listed as owners of 1515 Restaurant Bar and Lounge, and Jack and Tony Dudum are listed as owners and applicants of this new nightclub proposal. Incidentally, Tony Dudum was in the news recently as one of the downtown bar and restaurant owners objecting to a proposed policy to stagger cutoff times for serving liquor.

Currently, 1515 has permission to serve alcohol on the first floor until 12:30 a.m. seven days a week and until 11:30 p.m. on the second floor on Thursday through Saturdays. Since it opened in 2006, 1515 has emphasized “the restaurant nature of the establishment,” the city staff report says.


The city is not amendable to the Dudums’ dance club idea. City staff members say that allowing a DJ, live entertainment, and dancing would change the character of the establishment, “as these two elements are more closely associated with a club, not a restaurant.” Indeed, the city would like to limit any live music to soloist musicians provided the volume and intensity of the music “do not preclude patrons from engaging in casual dinner conversation.” In essence, the music needs to be “background in nature, complementary to the dining experience, not superior to it.”


The police department has also expressed concerns about transforming this restaurant into a club, as well as the request to extend hours for alcoholic sales. The police worry about additional strains on their services.

However, in a “nod to the current economic recession,” police are willing to agree to allow the closing times on the second floor to match the 12:30 a.m. closing times currently on the first.

In keeping 1515 as a restaurant, the city would prohibit it from presenting karaoke and fashion shows. The city also wants to ban video games, reduced-prized drink deals, and to keep the monthly gross sales of alcohol to food at a 40:60 ratio.

In their business proposals for opening 1515 and a subsequent and successful proposal to expand the restaurant into the second floor, the Dudums presented themselves as successful, community-minded, philanthropic, and taste-making business entrepreneurs. They also assert that their establishment would be a valuable asset to the Walnut Creek restaurant and business community.

From the Dudums original 2006 business proposal (the author is not identified):

--“I had in my possession a fantastic spot of a jewel for a wonderful restaurant, bar and lounge. Being a resident of Walnut Creek and having the desire to get rid of the stale atmosphere I present to you the plans for what I hope to be a fun, clean, upbeat, professional and great place for the community as well as the downtown city of Walnut Creek.”
--“I intend to provide an abundant amount of fresh and intriguingly flavorful tapas, entrees with a classy full bar service … The ambiance will be created by clean and fashionable décor”
--With my 15-plus years of experience in the restaurant and bar industry, this is a sure hit for the city, the patrons and the citizens."


From the Dudums’ September 2008 proposal (again, the author is not identified):

--“Our primary business is food service.”
--“The upstairs is decorated with class and beauty and brings a warm inviting feeling to all.”
--“Upstairs will be used for nonprofit [fundraising] events with the Special Olympics.
--“A big part of being in business is to give back to the community to those are not as fortunate as us.”


As much as I don’t want to diminish the Dudums’ proclaimed philanthropic aspirations, the statement about helping those “not as fortunate as us” came after Jack and Sylvia Dudum had come under scrutiny in the alleged taxi cab scam--possessing permits sought by not-so-fortunate men and women, struggling to earn enough money to house and feed their families.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great story and great investigating!

Anonymous said...

Speaking on behalf of the non-yups of WC, I'd like to say it'd be nice if the city encouraged more diversity in restaurant ownership downtown. Too much space is dedicated to the Dudum family's phony overpriced "theme" restaurants. Any more deference to them and we'll end up with our own Seeno oligarchy.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the city is not deferring to the Dudums in this case.

Anonymous said...

These kind of establishment belongs in San Francisco or Oakland. I'm surprised to read that the police are willing to make any concessions in the name of economic recession.

Has the upstairs area of 1515 ever been used for fundraising? And who was the recipient of those funds?The city should take care in the type of entrepreneurs it associates with. As my mother used to say "when you lay down with dogs you get fleas."

Frank said...

Let's be real. The Dudum restaurants do provide job opps and revenue for the city. They also bring happiness to those who repeatedly go to their establishments. For those who think that downtown WC turns into some drunken stupor at night, you're sadly mistaken. And, 1515 have been involved in many fundraisers in their upstairs room.

Soccer Mom said...

According to one of their business proposals, to get approval to expand into the second floor o the building, 1515 hosted a fundraiser for a young burn victim in the upstairs part of the restaurant. "A big part of being in business is to give back to the community to those who are not as fortunate as us," the proposal reads. "These events have a major impact on many lives...We recently had a very successful fundraiser for a poor child that was burned throughout his body. The room was filled with large amount of emotions and positive energy that translated into raising $35,000 and a new car."

http://walnutcreek.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=12&event_id=21&meta_id=28974

Anonymous said...

The owners have brought some interesting places to town. If you think they are phoney and overpriced that's ok. They aren't the only game in town.

Anonymous said...

The Dudums have owned several nice restaraunts and several more raunchy bars, where unsuspecting young college girls have gotten their purses stolen while they danced and had rufies slipped in their drinks by thugs who pray on drunk 20 somethings. Every Dudum application talks about ambiance and great food service to get in the door and the change to hip hop dj follows shortly there after. Our cops are busy enough and we never see them in our neighborhoods on thur, fri, sat nights becauase of the bar crowds. next time your car gets burglarized or stolen thank the bar owners for their ambiance.

Anonymous said...

9:04pm - I love the stereotypes! Unsuspecting college girls, thugs who pry on 20 somethings, raunchy bars. Sounds like you've been to Bing Crosby's, McCoveys and Maria Maria. LOL.

Did I see you dancing to hip hop at Bings the other night?

All three of the places I mentioned above are pretty nice additions to town.

I'm pretty confident you haven't been to any of the establishments and have not been downtown after 9pm.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:03 you dont know me or anything about me, so you really should not be confident about my experiences. Have you ever sat with a rape victim at the hospital waiting for them to have a sexual assault exam? Have you ever pulled injured or dead people from the wreckage of car crashes and not been able to tell if they are male or female? Have you ever notified people that their family members are dead. I have had all these experiences in a long career which included Walnut Creek and its bar scene. You are correct I do not go down to the bars any more, but the rest of your comment is as full of shit as you are

Anonymous said...

What's the "back story" on this Dudum family? I'm still pretty new in town and just catching up on some of this stuff. From the buzz on this blog and elsewhere, they remind me a little of the LaHoods and their reputation in Illinois. Every small town seems to have at least one family that likes to fancy themselves high rollers and big wheels ... sometimes to the detriment of people who deal with them.

Anonymous said...

The Dudums are beyond cheesy and not exactly the most innocent group of characters. Hopefully this taxi scam will help bring larger scams to light. The philanthropy angle is very, very slight. I'd also like to see more diversity in downtown WC.

Soccer Mom said...

Readers,
Thanks for your comments on this story. Despite what some might think, my reasons for writing about this have to do with the fact that Jack and Sylvia Dudum are movers and shakers in the downtown restaurant and real estate scene, so are other members of their family. If Jack and Sylvia Dudum are facing serious legal issues, it's fair to ask what impact that will have on their businesses--and on Walnut Creek's downtown.
In light of the particular charges against them, it's also fair to question whether they are being hypocritical in proclaiming their concern for those less fortunate than them--to justify their need for a restaurant expansion--when they are accused of denying access to work permits (San Francisco taxicab medallions) that are in short supply--and that are needed by those less fortunate than them.
The Dudums talk about their desire to hold charitable events in their restaurant, and I know someone who attended the one for the burn victim. I also know that Jeff Dudum--or his restaurants, rather--participated in a fundraising event for Walnut Creek schools.
Still, as I said, these charges against Jack and Sylvia Dudum raise questions, and that's all I'm doing.

Anonymous said...

Any new updates regarding Thursday's planning meeting? Or updates on the taxi fraud?

Soccer Mom said...

Dear July 27, 2009, 4:47 PM,

Thanks for the nudge for me to check into how the Dudum proposal went with the Planning Commission. So I watched the video of the commission meeting and the discussion on the Dudum project.

It was a bit of a 1515 Love Fest, with commission members praising 1515 for being a classy, well-run safe establishment. Police Lt. Mark Covington agreed that his department had received few complaints about any disturbances related to 1515. "My personal experience is that it is a well run operation, very busy, with most patrons there for drinks." The only issue the department has became aware of, he said, is that, at one point, the restaurant rolled a mobile bar onto the front outdoor patio area, which was not in accordance with its permit; the restaurant was issued a citation. Overall, Covington said, "it's very, very well run."

Both dad, Jack Dudum, and son, Tony Dudum, spoke at the meeting. One thing they wanted to make clear is that, contrary to how their proposal was portrayed in the city staff report, they have no intention of transforming 1515 from a restaurant and bar into a nightclub.

They were asking the city to allow them to extend hours for serving alcohol on both floors of the restaurant to 1:45 a.m. As for their application to bring in a DJ, live entertainment, and dancing on both floors, they say this music would only be for special events--weddings, bar mitzvahs, company parties, charitable events.

As much as the commissioners were sympathetic to the Dudums' desire to expand their business hours for serving alcohol, they agreed with city staff to limit the alcohol service time to 12:30 a.m. Their reasons had nothing to do with
1515's operations but with the fact that the city has begun to study the whole issue of bar closing times throughout the downtown area. Commissioners were hestitant to make a new policy for one establishment that might not be in compliance with any future recommendations the task force comes up with.

As for those pesky San Francisco Taxicab medallion fraud charges that hang over Jack Dudum, and that were the subject of an ABC7 investigation?

No mention at all. Jack Dudum spoke with pride about his family's service to the community and 1515's "pristine record." Jack Dudum added that he had been in business personally for 45 years with ABC licenses in San Francisco, Alameda, and other cities: "I never had one blemish on my record, of serving hard liquor in my fine family dining establishments."

The only hint of controversy surrounding Jack Dudum came from Dudum daughter and sister, Julie Dudum Del Santo, who lives in the Almond-Shuey neighborhood of Walnut Creek and works locally in real estate. She complained about a local blog (who could that be?) that had been "bashing" her family. She then talked about all the "good" that comes out of 1515, with it providing a place where families can take their kids for a meal, people can take their clients for lunch, and women can meet with their girlfriends for a late night drink.