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    Inside the hookah-lounge craze
    by DAVE SCHWAB
    Jul 23, 2014 | 6626 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    Pharoah’s Cafe Lounge on Garnet Avenue is one of several hookah-lounge escapes for visitors. Photos by Dave Schwab
    Pharoah’s Cafe Lounge on Garnet Avenue is one of several hookah-lounge escapes for visitors. Photos by Dave Schwab
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    Frank Shamas is the owner of Pharaoh’s Lounge. Photo by Dave Schwab
    Frank Shamas is the owner of Pharaoh’s Lounge. Photo by Dave Schwab
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    If you’re looking for an offbeat entertainment alternative while you’re down at the beach, check out a hookah lounge. And if you’re so inclined, there are about a half-dozen lounges to choose from in Pacific Beach. One choice is Pharaoh’s Café Lounge at 976 Garnet Ave. Formerly Zanzibar Café. Pharaoh’s spent six months completely remodeling the retail space, which was “resurrected” and reopened three months ago as a full-on restaurant-lounge. Pharaoh’s serves up food, smoke and beer and wine in its own unique, exotic style. “People come here for the environment to see different kinds of people from different cultures,” said Frank Shamas of Pharaoh’s about what draws guests. “A hookah lounge is a very different place, a social place.” Other Pacific Beach hookah lounges include: Off the Hookah, 972 Garnet Ave., Sinbad Café, 1050 Garnet Ave., Hook Me Up Hookah, 1140 Garnet Ave., and Red Velvet Hookah Lounge, 1425 Garnet Ave. Pharaoh’s has a lot to offer, both the familiar and the unfamiliar. Big-screen TVs offer the latest in sports while guests lounge in the spacious interior that features plenty of tables for groups and lots of upholstered booths. “It has to be very welcoming and offer new ideas,” said Shamas of the ambiance of hookah lounges like Pharaoh’s, noting “There are many options for hookah bars now. Before, there weren’t many,” he said. Shamas said hookah lounges are popping up all over the country. In San Diego, he said there are as many as 30 concentrated along El Cajon Boulevard alone. A hookah is a multi-stemmed waterpipe used to vaporize and smoke flavored tobacco called shisha, which is passed through a glass water basin before being inhaled. Hookahs are an ancient smoking tradition, originating from the Persian Empire. Hookahs later spread to Egypt in the Middle East and Turkey during the Ottoman dynasty. The smoking apparatus has since gained popularity throughout the world. The shisha is virgin, natural tobacco with flavoring and glycerine, said Shamas. A customer can purchase 250 grams of flavored shisha in a wide variety of flavors, which costs $14 to $20. That amount of shisha will typically last a group of three people about two hours. Hookah pipes are meant to be shared, said Shamas. He said that’s a big part of the lounge’s appeal. What else is appealing about Pharaoh’s is the food. Fresh fruit and fruit drinks are offered, as well as a full menu and deli. Offerings include salads, sandwiches and panninis for lunch, brunch and dinner. “We’ll be open for breakfast soon once we’ve established ourselves here,” said Shamas. Pharaoh’s is also a great place to people-watch, any time of the night or day, as Shamas can attest. “It’s very social and you can meet lots of new people,” he said, adding there’s a never-ending stream of passersby to gaze at; people of every age, background and walk of life. “It’s a younger crowd at night than it is during the daytime,” said Shamas, noting the lounge is open late on weeknights, until 4 a.m., and 2 or 3 a.m. on weekdays depending on the turnout to capture that crowd. “We get large groups of 20 people sometimes,” said Shamas. He offers an open invitation for guests to drop in and experience what a hookah lounge is all about. “Come in and try it at least once,” he said. “It’s very social, very modern. The brands, flavors and tastes of the tobacco are amazing. It’s something different, something unique.”
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    PB strip mall’s complete overhaul finalized, ready for surprising lineup
    by DAVE SCHWAB
    Jul 23, 2014 | 1366 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    A major business swap in the old Staples/CVS-anchored strip mall on Garnet Avenue will usher in at least one new major business and displace other smaller businesses.           Photo by Dave Schwab
    A major business swap in the old Staples/CVS-anchored strip mall on Garnet Avenue will usher in at least one new major business and displace other smaller businesses. Photo by Dave Schwab
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    This courtesy floorplan shows the new lineup of the plaza: Trader Joe’s, Staples, PetSmart and Walgreens.
    This courtesy floorplan shows the new lineup of the plaza: Trader Joe’s, Staples, PetSmart and Walgreens.
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    The musical chairs in the Staples-anchored strip mall at 1650 Garnet Ave. between Jewell and Ingraham streets has stopped, with five businesses taking their “seats” and demolition beginning Aug. 1 for an anticipated May 2015 reopening. Kristen Victor, president of nonprofit beautifulPB, said she’s been told by redevelopment project architect Carrier Johnson + Culture that two businesses formerly in the mall — Staples and San Diego County Credit Union (SDCCU) — will be returning along with the addition of Trader Joe’s relocating from 1211 Garnet Ave., a Walgreens pharmacy and PetSmart. Two businesses previously in the mall, Empire Beauty Supply and Salon and Daisy Cleaners, have moved across the street to the property that once housed Pacific Coast Bicycles at 1637 Garnet Ave. Three other businesses formerly in the Staples mall — Little Caesers and Postal Annex — have left and will not be returning. CVS has an existing pharmacy across the street in the Vons shopping center. “We learned that the project has been in design for three years,” said Victor about the project, which some feel has been shrouded in secrecy. “Some feel that developers should have been more involved in engaging the community in this project,” Victor said. One of those disappointed by how the Staples redevelopment has been handled is Brian Curry, chairman of the Pacific Beach Planning Group (PBPG). Curry dashed off a letter to city planners, noting, “An applicant for a 60,000-square-foot retail center in the heart of Pacific Beach (Ingraham and Garnet) was not required to appear at the PBPG or engage in any community outreach. This situation results in an incredible disconnect on forward planning. It seems planning policy should be revisited to guarantee that the public and PBPG is consulted on any new development in Pacific Beach, especially with regard to major projects.” Victor said there were two reasons why the Staples redevelopment was not required by the city to come before PBPG for public review. “Only those projects on the west side of Ingraham Street have to go through coastal review, and this project is on the east side,” she said. “Also because they’re (developers) knocking down the entire building and rebuilding with the same structure.” Vicki Piazza of Carrier Johnson + Culture said the initial idea was to keep half of the building space at the Staples mall and rebuild the other half, which had to be abandoned. “The building, built in 1962, just wasn’t equipped to handle modern big-box retail,” Piazza said, adding leases have not been signed with all five prospective tenants. Piazza said the building will not be completely rebuilt to almost the exact specifications of the older building, but slightly smaller. The architect said Staples has said that its new prototype store which is going into the rebuild is as much as 2,000 feet smaller than its previous space. She said that space could become available for other uses, though Staples could very well find a use for it. Victor said the latest news about the Staples mall rebuild is a positive development. The fact that there is 2,000 extra square feet of space possibly available, Victor said, means “that may allow us to develop that as a community group office to be used by Discover PB (BID), PBPG, PB Town Council and other civic and school groups. We’re talking about some sort of civic engagement place, a place with seating for meetings.” Victor said a proposed Decobike bikeshare station planned to go in on the corner of Ingraham Street and Garnet Avenue could possibly be “retooled” so that it could cater to bicycle enthusiasts. “We’re talking about possibly creating a bike shed which people could use to store and repair their bikes which could be part of the bike path that goes through PB,” Victor said. Chris Olson, a member of both beautifulPB and the PBPG, said having community and bike centers in the middle of PB’s business district would “be like a dream come true.” Olson said there is also talk of doing work on the stormdrains in that same area to prevent runoff from polluting the bayfront ecosystem. Reconstruction on the Staples rebuild is expected to be completed by March 2015. “There will be two months after that for companies to go in and do tenant improvements before opening up in May 2015,” Victor said. There is one more thing the PB community appears to want done with the Staples project. “We are working with the city to not let this happen again where a project this large — and this significant — does not have any community engagement,” Victor said.
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    Pros, cons cited after OK of minimum-wage hike
    by DAVE SCHWAB
    Jul 23, 2014 | 11431 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    Will raising the city’s minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by Jan. 1, 2017 make San Diego more affordable for those with lower incomes, or will it ultimately harm workers by costing them a chance at jobs? That’s the question to be answered after a measure was adopted July 15 by San Diego City Council, which plans to boost the city’s minimum wage to $9.75 in 2015, $10.50 in 2016 and to $11.50 in 2017.
    Will raising the city’s minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by Jan. 1, 2017 make San Diego more affordable for those with lower incomes, or will it ultimately harm workers by costing them a chance at jobs? That’s the question to be answered after a measure was adopted July 15 by San Diego City Council, which plans to boost the city’s minimum wage to $9.75 in 2015, $10.50 in 2016 and to $11.50 in 2017.
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    Will raising the city’s minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by Jan. 1, 2017 make San Diego more affordable for those with lower incomes, or will it ultimately harm workers by costing them a chance at jobs? That’s the question to be answered after a measure was adopted July 15 by San Diego City Council, which plans to boost the city’s minimum wage to $9.75 in 2015, $10.50 in 2016 and to $11.50 in 2017. The new ordinance would also require employers to provide five paid sick days a year. Council has voted to direct staff to begin conferring with the city's labor unions as to the methods under which the wage will be raised. City Council President Todd Gloria, who spearheaded the push for the minimum-wage increase, characterized it as “a reasonable compromise.” Gloria had originally proposed that the wage be $13.09 an hour. Gloria warned possible opponents of the wage hike that “there may be better ways that they can spend their time and money than opposing a pay increase to their employees … or by telling everyone you want your employees to work while they are sick.'' The vote on the minimum-wage hike went along party lines, 6-3, with Democrats voting in favor and Republicans voting against. Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, led by recent past Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders, have opposed the wage increase. “I feel the deal we reached on minimum wage was a fair compromise,” concluded District 2 Councilman Ed Harris. “I’ve seen the research and data that points to the positive impacts of raising the minimum wage and providing earned sick leave. “By paying a livable wage, we can help avoid paying higher social service costs, and by providing earned sick leave, we support higher employee productivity in the long term. “I don’t know how people living in San Diego can make ends meet on $1,560 a month,” continued Harris, noting, that “That’s what a full-time minimum-wage earner makes at the current rate of $9 an hour.” $9 an hour, the state's minimum wage law, went into effect July 1. Supporters of the new minimum wage argue the pay increase helps the impoverished without hurting the local economy. Detractors counter that a higher minimum wage puts employers at a competitive disadvantage, causing them to hire fewer employees, thus hurting the segment of the population that the city is attempting to help.
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    City OKs tougher water restrictions
    by DAVE SCHWAB
    Jul 23, 2014 | 502 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    After three successive years of drought, the city has issued a Level 1 alert calling for citizens to voluntarily participate in water-conservation measures, including not watering lawns more than three days a week and watering lawns or washing vehicles only before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. during summer months.
    After three successive years of drought, the city has issued a Level 1 alert calling for citizens to voluntarily participate in water-conservation measures, including not watering lawns more than three days a week and watering lawns or washing vehicles only before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. during summer months.
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    After three successive years of drought, the city has issued a Level 1 alert calling for citizens to voluntarily participate in water-conservation measures, including not watering lawns more than three days a week and watering lawns or washing vehicles only before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. during summer months. California is mired in a long-term drought and San Diego is no exception. Noting San Diego’s annual rainfall average recorded at the official measurement station at Lindbergh Field is 10.34 inches, National Weather Service forecaster Jimmy Taeger said the rainfall amount for 2013-14, which ended June 30, was 5.06 inches. Taeger said rainfall levels the previous year in 2012-13 were 6.51 inches and 8.03 inches the year before that in 2011-12. The forecaster said you have to go back to 2010-11 to find the last year when rainfall was at or above normal, with 12.62 inches that year. Recent changes to the city’s emergency water regulations have established new restrictions on water use, as well as stepping up enforcement and penalties. All water waste is prohibited in the San Diego Municipal Code. Wasting water is illegal at all times, even when no drought-response levels are in effect. Any violations of the water-use restrictions associated with drought-response levels are also treated as water waste. The city may penalize those who continue to waste water with an escalating series of penalties up to and including shutting off water service. When customers continue to waste water after being contacted by the Public Utilities Department’s conservation staff, the city's Code Enforcement Department can step in. Should a customer refuse to stop overwatering, fail to repair a leak or continue other water waste, a code-enforcement officer or water-waste investigator will fashion an appropriate response. Code-enforcement officers have a variety of remedies to help ensure compliance, including issuing a warning letter, administrative citations ranging from $100 to $1,000, civil penalties up to $2,500 per day for violations, referral to the City Attorney’s Office for civil or criminal prosecution and shutoff of water service., On July 15 California’s Water Resources Control Board voted to impose mandatory water-use restrictions statewide in response to California’s ongoing drought. For San Diego, however, permanent mandatory water-use restrictions in place since 2009 already meet elements of the requirements mandated by the state. As a result, the state’s regulation does not require the city to make changes to its emergency water regulations but should serve as a reminder to all San Diegans that using water efficiently, and in compliance with the city’s current water use restrictions, are important to help conserve water during this severe drought condition. “I want to thank San Diegans, who for years have done a tremendous job of stepping up to the plate to incorporate water conservation into their way of life,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “This summer, as we see temperatures climb, we must continue to be mindful of the current drought situation by adhering daily to the city’s permanent water use restrictions,” he said. The city will continue to review the state’s decision and monitor the drought conditions throughout the state to determine if any changes to its drought response level are necessary. In the meantime, the city’s focus will be to reduce water waste by educating residents on how to comply with the restrictions through education rather than an enhanced enforcement system focused on fines. A few helpful hints for conserving water: • Check faucets, pipes and toilets for leaks. • Plant drought-resistant lawns, shrubs and plants. • Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants. • Water during early or late parts of the day. • Don’t let the hose run while washing your car. • Use a broom, not a hose, to clean driveways and sidewalks.
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    Bird's Surf Scoop: summer ocean gremlins return
    by BIRD HUFFMAN
    Jul 23, 2014 | 439 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    Gremlins of the ocean Surfers and oceangoers are finding this to be a near-epidemic year for stingray encounters. Though some water enthusiasts espouse the “stingray shuffle” to ward off a potential encounter, beachgoers should, at the very least, walk soft and slow.
    Gremlins of the ocean Surfers and oceangoers are finding this to be a near-epidemic year for stingray encounters. Though some water enthusiasts espouse the “stingray shuffle” to ward off a potential encounter, beachgoers should, at the very least, walk soft and slow.
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    Well, it is officially summer, and you know what that means, right? I'm not talking about the longer days and warmer evenings. Not even thinking about the crowds and lack of easy parking anywhere within a mile of the beach. Smaller surf and less of it? Nope. I'm talking about stingrays. The gremlins of the ocean who always appear right around now as the tides drop out to negative lows and water temps climb up into the low 70s. These creatures are nasty, and it has already been near an epidemic year for people getting stung by them. Beach breaks are the most likely place to run into them, but sand pockets in the reefs can harbor these little land mines as well. Though the wound that they inflict is usually just a small laceration, the pain can be a very serious thing to deal with. On rare occasions, the stingray’s barb can actually break off inside of the victim’s body, so great care must be taken to make sure none of this foreign matter is left in the wound. Treatment for a wound is somewhat limited. It normally consists of putting the damaged area water into as hot as can be tolerated, then adding hot water at regular intervals. I have been told that the poison from the barb is protein based. Down in Mexico, the locals will squeeze lemon juice into the affected area as a way to help neutralize the nasty stuff. Some people can handle the pain better than others, just as some wounds are worse than others. My experiences with being stung have been somewhat lucky, I'd say. The initial sensation was a quick prick and a burning sensation. As the body starts to react to the venom, I felt that burn grow quickly in intensity and start to spread up my leg. Even with a hot-water soaking, the pain remained steady for nearly three hours. The affected area remained sensitive to the touch or occasional rub for a few weeks after the incident. In 50-plus years of ocean enjoyment, I have only been hit two times. But that’s still more than enough to remind me to stay vigilant at any time of the year while walking out to surf. I shuffle my feet as much as possible. I know a few guys who will slap at the top of the water in an effort to scare the critters away. How effective this can be is unknown. In any event, walk soft and slow,
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    News
    Harris marks 100 days in office with outreach, tangible changes
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    Jul 23, 2014 | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend
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    Sports
    Sports travel clubs: conflict of a young athlete’s school ties or independent betterment
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    Jul 23, 2014 | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend
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    Opinion
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    Jul 23, 2014 | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend
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    Arts & Entertainment
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    Jul 23, 2014 | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend
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    Business
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    Jul 09, 2014 | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend
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    Obituaries
    Virginia Fournier, 99, longtime OB resident and volunteer
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    Jul 17, 2014 | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend
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