Downtown Restaurant Assocation seeks leadership

Brick and mortars restaurants unite in downtown SR

The recent flap between Santa Rosa restaurateurs and mobile food vendors has sparked the formal organization of the Downtown Santa Rosa Restaurant Association. The group aims to be a resource that “helps our members keep the doors open and tables set” by sharing  information, cost savings, marketing and education, according to Rendez Vous Bistro owner Nino Rabba.

Rabba has spearheaded the fledgling organization over the last several weeks and hopes to combine efforts of the immediate downtown business owners and those of nearby Railroad Square, which have long been separate entities. Potential benefits to members would include newsletters, seminars, group purchasing, energy management, publicity and special events and networking.

Still officially leaderless, DSRRA meets April 6, 2011 in its last open discussion meeting before electing its leadership committee on April 20. In past meetings, those interested in forming the organization — which includes many of the downtown restaurants owners according to Rabba — outlined the group’s mission and membership qualifications. “We want to build a more positive future for the downtown restaurant community,” said Rabba. “There are good people here who have really good ideas,” he said.

Though the need for a cohesive downtown restaurant organization has long been discussed in the restaurant community, the sudden arrival of lunchtime food trucks to an off-square location in Santa Rosa united many restaurateurs to take action to defend their businesses and create a better line of communication between themselves and the city.

For more information about the organization, which is open to the food service industry in downtown Santa Rosa, contact


14 thoughts on “Downtown Restaurant Assocation seeks leadership

  1. None of this means anything until the leadership is selected/elected. I see a lot of positive momentum and ideas being talked about, and a very cool local marketing agency contacted me to see if they could volunteer some of their time to help with the DSRRA’s efforts. If there is vision and support at a leadership level, it’s going to be a very positive step. If not, it’s just a lot of talk.

    I got some interesting history on this kind of thing from Roger Praplan (La Gare) about the previous history of the Redwood Empire Restaurant Association (which disbanded a while back). There is precedence for positive group dynamics. And precedence for the whole thing falling apart due to everyone being to busy to participate.

    Time will tell…

  2. Miriam – I don’t think you have to worry about #5, since you “get” #4! You will be just fine. 🙂

    It’s what businesses in other industries do. Adjust your business plan to suit the ever-changing environment. If you don’t, your business does not survive – and that is your own fault. Do a SWOT analysis (google it – it’s a pretty basic concept). Put your energy in to the “O”.

    Others could learn from Miriam – I hope her attitude is infectious!

  3. Am I totally bonkers or is everybody else
    ? Facts:
    1.Food Trucks are great
    2.Restaurant owners don’t need some big price fixing summit to stay in business
    3.Chefs already share information on how to do their rediculously hard job of cutting the edge on cost and labor…thats what school, stages, work experience and friendships are for.
    4. Restaurants that can be put out of business by a food truck should rethink their business plan.
    5. I hope I dont have to eat my own hat on that last comment *lol*

  4. Mr. Rabbaa, from a purely PR perspective, you may want to rein in people like “Klyle Sterlng” and keep them from speaking on your behalf. They do nothing to help your cause, nor do they do anything to promote a positive image for your fledgling group. If Klyle Sterlng is not one of your members, you should have distanced yourself from his/her comments – it can only help.

  5. Confused. That Is a straight news story. I actually Got the info straight from Nino and am very happy they are organizing. I think this is a super step in the right direction for downtown restaurants. Couldn’t be more supportive.

  6. Dear Biteclubeats,
    Here again you make every effort to be negative regarding the DSRRA and it’s efforts to try to organize and become successful. The Mobile Food Vendor issue was very much stirred up by you and your warning you gave on Biteclubeats blog that the city was going to stop the Mobile Vendors and you thought it was a bad idea and we should organize against their decision. Maybe you do not live in Santa Rosa but we who do must first and for most support our local restaurants and that is why the city made such decision to do so. Until some new positive news regarding Mobile Food Vendors is announced please stop giving bad press to our Local Restaurants.

    1. I have no particular axe to grind about DSRRA, but I have a very strong view about the so-called “Mobile Food Vendor Issue”, namely that the so-called “support of local restaurants” and – worse – “support of those who live in SR” is in fact thinly disguised monopolistic behavior that is explicitly anti-competitive, definitively anti-consumer, and quite frankly un-American. If parking (quite plausibly) or health (far less plausibly) are legitimate concerns, then fine – but let’s put a stop to the absurdity of claiming that shutting the trucks down was in any way “supportive” of the local community.

      As such, it is grossly unfair to impugn Heather’s perspective as “bad press for local restaurants”, particularly given how much unabashedly positive praise she gives to local cooks and purveyors. Shutting the trucks was, and remains, exclusively supportive of a very small group of restaurant owners’ wallets, at the expense of virtually every other member of our community, and I commend Heather for calling them out on it.

      1. Mr. Proximal Kitchen,
        I would agree with you if we, as downtown restaurant owners, had been consulted or offered the opportunity to participate with the food truck. However this is not the case.
        Unfortunately this whole situation has been blown way out of proportion by those with little to no information. To set the record straight, we actually all like the idea of Food Trucks. In fact Rendez Vous Bistro purchased one 8 months ago, way before this saga, for the purpose of offering “Rendez Vous on Wheels” a solution to those needing a quick and inexpensive meal. It’s my understanding that when the food truck vendors approached the economic development board, they were told to consult with the downtown restaurants but they did not and then proceeded to inform the city that they did. Consequently, they were allowed to set up shop based on the premise that WE WERE ALL INFORMED and offered the opportunity to participate. THIS WAS NOT THE CASE! It should also be clarified that we firmly believe in competition. In fact, we encourage and are excited by it because the more options available downtown, the larger our customer base will be. It’s really just a matter of having a level playing field. That is all we ask. FYI: “we“ refers not just to “a very small group of restaurant owners”, but nearly all of the restaurants of both side of the freeway.
        It’s time that we eliminate all of the complaining and negativities and turn them into solutions and optimism. We strive on a daily basis to enrich our community and DSRRA will be a first step in that direction. Many good things to come, wait and see.

      2. Bravo, Proximal.Kitchen. Well said.
        “Klyly”, I for one, would like to start an organization that would be willing to buy you, and other like-minded restaurateurs, a one-way ticket to Portland, OR. There, you’ll be able to witness mobile food vendors and brick-and-mortar restaurants thriving in close proximity to one another. This issue doesn’t need to be an “us or them” proposition.
        Stop blocking Santa Rosa’s downtown area from ever having a chance at vitality.
        BTW: it’s “foremost” not “for most”.

    2. Dear Klyle (your spelling)

      I own two DOWNTOWN restaurants and have never heard of your organization nor has anyone contacted me to even say hello. If you want to try to organize try harder my friend. Don’t moan about preserving the health of local restaurants while at the same time doing nothing to introduce yourself TO LOCAL DOWNTOWN RESTAURANTS.

      1. Dear Bill,
        I am sorry to hear that you were not approached yet nor have heard about DSRRA . However the good news is, the downtown santa rosa restaurant association is a project that has just started which is why we have asked Heather to help us get the word out and reach more business than we could on our own.
        Its not too late to come voice your opinion and become part of a productive association that is geared toward promoting a better Downtown Restaurant community. Our first official meeting is today Wednesday, April 6th at 3:00pm at La Vera Pizza, please join us.
        For more information,please email me on and I will be happy to send you an application to fill out and return.

        1. Thank you for the invite. I’ll probably pass because I just prefer to focus on food and service in my house. I want to minimize unnecessary distractions and follow the proper course of a restaurant owner in the way a confident but slow pack mule would. In the long run I think this approach will please more foodies and keep the smile on my face better that joining a noisy club. I’ll see you around though and will follow your progress with anticipation. Cheers!

          1. It won’t please more foodies.

            These guys already kicked the other local businesses (ie, mobile food trucks, many who were based in SR) out of the area.

            They’re just as bad as AT&T’s monopoly on everything.

          2. Mr. Bill:

            I am highly disappointed by your response to Mr. Rabbaa. Initially you complained that you were not informed about this new DSRRA organization and when Mr. Rabbaa made the effort to reach out and invite you to participate you responded with “I would rather focus on the food and service in my house.” This tells me, an individual who works downtown and patronizes downtown restaurants, that you really were not concerned about downtown restaurants and their success but rather simply looking for a venue to complain. That is unfortunate. As Mr. Rabbaa states in another thread, the more patrons who come downtown, the greater the customer base for all the restaurants. If you are truly interested in your success and that of others, I would encourage you to participate and help your fellow owners become a success because ultimately that will lead to your success.

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