by Jonah Raskin, November 22, 2017
Permits from the city for the Emporium—a combination bar and arcade on Divisadero—dragged on and the Chicago-born and raised entrepreneur, Danny Marks began to fret.
“I asked a friend if I was supposed to grease the wheels,” he explained in the hollowed-out space of the old Harding Theater that opened in 1926, and that was named after the twenty-ninth U.S. President.
“No,” he was told. “Things just move slowly in San Francisco.”
Still, on a recent Wednesday morning, with the forty-fifth president in the White House, electricians, carpenters, plumbers and contractors dashed this way and that way. Next-door neighbors gaped at the multi-million-dollar makeover, while Danny Marks himself poured over blueprints and wondered when his big project might be completed.
As he knew, it’s far more challengingly to build, or rebuild or renovate in San Francisco in 2017 than it was 1926. Materials cost more and skilled labor is harder to come-by; most workers can’t afford to live in the city and so they commute three-hours round trip to get to and from the job. Then, too, projects take much longer to complete, with or without payoffs, bribes and the less blatant forms of corruption that once tainted the construction industry.
Danny Marks grew up in the 1980s and 1990s when he played the kinds of video games that he’s bringing back to the Emporium. He’s also a throw back, at least in his thinking, to an earlier era when entrepreneurs greased the wheels on a regular basis.
If he were to be faulted for suggestion that he had pay off an inspector, he ought to be forgiven.
After all, in Chicago, his hometown, that’s how business was conducted, at least in the 1960s and 1970s when his parents, Jerald and Pamela Marks, built,