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August 16, 2009

How one reader says the Dudums are helping Walnut Creek: Fine, but what about that pesky SF taxicab issue?

First of all, this is an invitation to Jack or Sylvia Dudum--or, gasp, their attorneys--to write in and offer their side of the controversy over allegations that they were falsely claiming to be full-time cab drivers in San Francisco for 10 years.

According to a 12-count, 72-page complaint, the couple were saying they were taxicab drivers in San Francisco in order to secure prized permits--or medallions, as they are called. These medallions are highly sought after in San Francisco but issued in limited numbers. They allow full-time cab drivers 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.

Again, according to this complaint, Jack and Sylvia Dudum were saying that they were driving cabs full-time while actually sitting on $15 million in real estate and restaurant interests both here in Walnut Creek and elsewhere. One of those restaurants includes 1515 Restaurant and Lounge on North Main Street.

The Dudums were scheduled to appear at an August 7 disciplinary hearing before the San Francisco Transportation Agency. They each face fines of more than $200,000 each. That hearing, I learned this week, has been "continued" until October.

As this controversy was brewing, Jack Dudum and his son, Tony, appeared before Walnut Creek's Planning Commission on July 23 on a matter involving 1515 Restaurant. You can view a video of the hearing here. They wanted the city to allow them to extend hours for serving alcohol on both floors of the restaurant to 1:45 a.m. The city staff wants to limit those hours to 12:30 a.m. No mention of the taxicab controversy was directly mentioned at the meeting. However, Dudum daughter and sister, Julie Dudum Del Santo, who lives in Walnut Creek and works locally in real estate, complained about an unidentified local blog that had been "bashing" her family.

Ms. Dudum Del Santo, this is also an invitation to you to write in and explain how a local blogger (me?) has been unfairly "bashing" your family. And, Ms. Dudum Del Santo, and Mr. and Mrs. Jack and Sylvia Dudum, I would be happy to run what you say as a "guest comment." Which means, I'd run it in full (with, yes, edits for clarity and grammar). I would just run a brief introductory statement at the beginning, stating why and how your guest comment came about.

Of course, I know I'm just a mere blogger--someone you can ignore. Also, I did not break this whole story in the first place.

ABC-7's Dan Noyes and I-Team first exposed this alleged scam of well-off suburbanites, claiming to be full-time taxicab drivers, in order to earn, potentially, thousands of extra dollars. Noyes included Jack and Sylvia Dudum in his report. Noyes sought comment from them but was rebuffed.

But, perhaps Noyes got it wrong. Perhaps the investigators for the San Francisco Transportation Agency got it wrong. Maybe, this is all some weird, bureaucratic misunderstanding that will all be worked out: Jack and Sylvia Dudum are living some Kafka-esque nightmare, did nothing wrong, and don't deserve this kind of negative coverage or legal hassle.

I know there is always more than one side of any story, and there are shades of gray in what may seem to be a very black-and-white issue. And, I'm even willing to go along with the claim made by the Dudums in their 2008 business proposal for 1515, that a big part of their being in business "is to give back to the community to those are not as fortunate as us."

On the other hand, I don't think I'm the only one who is having trouble squaring this stated concern about those "not as fortunate as us" with allegations that Jack and Sylvia Dudum held onto these taxicab medallions--when they didn't deserve them. Again, as Noyes reported, these permits are highly sought-after by ordinary working folk, so that they can earn some money to house and feed their families.

Maybe this taxicab issue is just one blemish on what Jack Dudum proclaims is his overall "pristine record" of service to the community. At that Planning Commission meeting, Jack Dudum said he had been in business personally for 45 years with state Alcoholic Beverage Control 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."

In the meantime, this anonymous reader shared this pro-Dudum comment on one of my two Dudum posts, which were dated July 10, 2009 and July 20, 2009. I'm publishing this reader's defense of the Dudums' contributions to Walnut Creek's dining and cultural life in full. This comment was posted on August 10, three days after the scheduled Dudum disciplinary hearing.

I have been a long time resident of the Walnut Creek area, and I love what the Dudum’s are bringing to this area. They have added a large city atmosphere to our bustling city, while maintaining the character that makes Walnut Creek grand. The Dudum’s establishments help decrease the unemployment rate, they offer a secure revenue source for their employees, and most of all they provide a family like feel to an industry that is fast becoming owned by large corporations.

1515 Restaurant & Lounge is owned by Tony Dudum and immediate family. Tony and his dad, Jack pride their restaurant businesses on quality food, a personalized wait staff, and above all, a welcoming ambience. His goal is not to add another nightclub to Walnut Creek, but to add an appealing venue where one might meet a friend for drinks, have a four course dinner, or have a tasty meal late into the night.

1515 is a standup addition to our fine city and the proprietors should be congratulated, not chastised. I implore you to take the time and see 1515 Restaurant & Lounge for yourself, see the numerous people who call 1515 home and then make your judgment. The Dudum’s main goal is to provide a home away from home not only for their staff, but for the fine residents of Walnut Creek, and in my humble opinion they are doing a fundamental job at bringing Walnut Creek to the next level.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

If the ABC-related Dan Noyes in your blog post is the same Dan Noyes that I'm thinking of, he's the co-founder of the Center for Investigative Reporting, a highly regarded organization -- in which case, I'd be willing to bet that the Noyes report will stand up to scrutiny and can be trusted for the quality of its research and conclusions.

(more info on the Center for blog readers >>> http://www.journalismjobs.com/noyes.cfm )

Anonymous said...

Dan Noyes of the ABC 7 I-Team is not the same Dan Noyes who founded CIR. But he is a good investigative reporter and from what the public records reveal, was solid on the SF Taxi medallion story.

Anonymous said...

Good job Soccer Mom. Great story! How come the father owns the biz and not actually Tony? Does Tony actually own anything or did he have to get it through pops?

Anonymous said...

SM,
Why on earth should anyone feel compelled to respond to an anonymous blogger?
You claim to be a journalist but you are not accountable due to your anonymity.
If you're writing this blog to have fun, I hope you enjoy yourself. However, please do not expect fealty from the subjects of your posts unless you take on the journalistic responsibility fully.
BTW, I am not a Dudum or a friend of theirs.

Anonymous said...

Dudums = Cheesiness

Are they even from Walnut Creek?

DumbAsBricks said...

SM,

I appreciate your voice and the power that anonymity gives it.

I think your assessment is even handed and your question fair. But then again, what do I know?

Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

to anon 2:29
And sadly you were somehow compelled to not only read the blog post but you ironical criticize soccer mom's anonymity while posting as anonymous yourself. Classy.

Anonymous said...

"The Dudum’s main goal is to provide a home away from home not only for their staff, but for the fine residents of Walnut Creek..."

While making as much money as possible of course while protesting staggered bar closings because we all know that the fine residents of walnut creek are the majority of the folks drinking into the wee hours.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:47
This is Anon 2:29. I would identify myself in these communications if Soccer Mom would. I see no irony in questioning her failure to take responsibility & accountability. Real journalists would do that. Guess I'm through feeding the trolls on this topic.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:29 & 10:41

This is blogging, get with the times. Not knowing SM, accept that she's a member of the community, is a benefit to me. People that respond as ANON is not different than me discussing a topic with someone I bump into at a coffee shop.

Soccer Mom said...

Dear Readers,
Thanks all, including Anon. 2:29 for offering your different viewpoints, and, yes bringing up the idea of my writing anonymously, or under the pseudonym Soccer Mom, and of people posting comments anonymously.

I choose to write under this "pen name" for a variety of reasons. That choice has its downsides, including the fact that some will question my professionalism and credibility. Those are downsides I've decided to live with--for the time being. That could all change as this blog evolves into whatever it's going to evolve into.

2:29 suggested that I expect "fealty from the subjects" of my posts--a response. Actually, I don't really expect that Jack or Sylvia Dudum or anyone representing the family is going to respond--not to an anonymous blogger like me. And it's not like a whole lotta people are reading this blog or will see these posts.

I just made the offer to the Dudums to offer their side, and it still stands.

Do I write posts about the Dudums' legal difficulties out of "fun"? Not really. These have been written more out of strong curiosity.

First, the Dudums (Jack, Sylvia, Tony, as well as Jeff) are major players in Walnut Creek's downtown business, dining and entertainment scene. Their fortunes--or challenges--have an impact on downtown. And I'm interested, as are a lot of my readers, on what's going on downtown.

Second, at their presentation before the Planning Commission meeting, Jack and Tony Dudum described themselves as having deep individual, family, and professional interests in being a part of this community. Jack Dudum especially spoke with pride about offering a top-notch dining experience and the importance to him of running respected, law-abiding establishments.

So, given the image they are presenting to our city's government, I am just trying to wrap my head around Jack Dudum's alleged involvement in this Taxicab controversy. What is THIS about? If the allegations are true, why on earth would he risk his reputation and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines over something like this? The complaints describe well-off suburbanites involved in something pathetic and greedy. And the complaints make it sound like this wasn't a one-time error in judgment but consisted of behavior that was ongoing--for a decade--and that brought prior admonishments and warnings.

Was it really worth it? Is there more to the story?

Or, as I previously wondered, is this some misunderstanding? Do the Dudums have a reasonable explanation for how their names got mixed up in this? Are the allegations unfair?

Yes, I'm curious. I want to know. I'm also curious to find out whether this taxicab issue is having any impact on the Dudum's downtown businesses. I hope people in the city are asking these questions.

Anonymous said...

Good points Soccer Mom. During summer break several years ago, my daughter worked for one of the Dudum's establishments. She left within a month. It was not a good experience.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:00

I'm sure someone has the same to say about almost every establishment in town no matter who owns it.

DumbAsBricks said...

Take a drive through Walnut Creek after midnight and see how these establishments are contributing to the "character" of Walnut Creek. Seems like every other group of people cannot even walk straight.

I see this with my own eyes and wonder if the WCPD actually capture the statistics of where the intoxicated people were served prior to being arrested, beat up, raped, or worse.

Anonymous said...

If you Walnut Creek folks only knew to what lengths Jack Dudum would go to make a buck.

Anonymous said...

SM,
Is there any update on the SF Taxi Commission charges brought against Jack & Sylvia Dudum? Last I heard, they were to be charged $250,000 each in penalties, but then the subject dropped off and we haven't heard of any updates in almost a year.

Anonymous said...

As a Dudum insider I can confirm that they meaning Jack are primarily driven by greed. Even their Turkey give away is greed motivated, they need that good publicity to offset the bad.
They like many other families are headed by the senior father Jack.
Everyone else is under his thumb. If you screw up, his rage will be unyielding even if you are family.
Fortunately for family they can't be fired, the employees are another matter. Jack can be the generous and jolly master but just remember you are in his mind his slave, the "whip will be cracked"
a verbal tirade, or the "axe will
fall", termination,at his will.
This can be validated by a recent
feud between him and a former partner and friend the owner of the Havana Restaurant. Apparently a
dispute over the partnership between the two in another Restaurant ended like a bad divorce. The pettiness extended by
Jack to his ownership of the parking lot, where the HR owner rented a parking space from Jack.
Jack terminated the rental and called the WCPD out when the HR
employees trespassed out their backdoor onto his lot, was his claim. Jack apparently lost part of the battle due to the law. He has to grant access due to the close proximity of his lot to their backdoor.
The moral to the story, just in case you missed it. If you go into business with Mr Jack dot your i's and cross your t's, for the hand you are shaking, will just as easily stab you in the back, as you walk away count your fingers and toes and check your wallet.
As for the SF medallion incident just a sign of the lengths Jack will go to, to make a buck, just pure simple greed.Poor Sylvia probably didn't know just how illegal this was.If the SFDA goes big time after Sylvia, Jack will
most likely cave to their demands, maybe.