Leaving Milano’s

04:22 Sun 25 May 2008
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The sfmagic MTG draft group is moving again, after about a year at Milano’s on 9th Avenue.

We’re moving to Kennedy’s Irish Pub and Curry House in a completely new neighborhood, North Beach. Since the group’s inception several years ago, it’s always been around 9th Avenue and Irving. But we haven’t been able to find a suitable venue around there, and so we’re on the move once again.

Milano’s has been okay, but not fantastic. We’ve never gotten the impression that they really like having us there (unlike Canvas, whose management made quite clear that they appreciated the extra 15-35 bodies in the place). I realize that we’re not really an ideal group for a restaurant, since many of the people who play don’t spend much money, but it seemed like it would work out because without us they’re usually fairly empty on Wednesday nights. In the end, though, we seem to annoy them, and that doesn’t create a great atmosphere.

I understand why we would annoy wait staff in general, because individuals have to move around during the evening, so that you might order while sitting in one place but be somewhere else when the meal arrives, not something wait staff would be used to. Also, we take up more space than people who are just eating.

Milano’s insist on a single check for the whole group, which has been a constant irritant for us, because it means that one of us has to act as collector for all the money. Usually this works out fine, but sometimes people forget to pay, or neglect to include tax and tip in the money they hand over for their chunk of the bill, and several times we’ve been short, meaning that some group members have to chip in to cover the rest. Kennedy’s doesn’t work that way—there, you order your food at a counter and pay for it on the spot, which will eliminate that problem entirely.

In my original post on the venue search, I listed these criteria:

  • Can accommodate 20-30 people. We don’t go above 20 that often at the moment, and finding somewhere that can accommodate more than 30 might be wishful thinking, so I think aiming for 20-30 would be good.
  • Open until midnight. We could possibly get away with 23:30, but before that seems completely unrealistic.
  • Open to minors.
  • Plenty of tables and chairs.
  • Isn’t a card store (just thought I’d get that out there…) (unless they’re willing not to charge, and to let us sell cards at cost, plus trade, etc.—seems unlikely)
  • Accessible by public transport.
  • Decent lighting (typical Canvas lighting being more or less the minimum acceptable level).
  • No entry fee.

Kennedy’s satisfies all of them (so does Milano’s).

I also listed the following as bonuses:

  • Serves food.
  • Serves alcohol
  • Isn’t too loud
  • Is by a BART station

Milano’s and Kennedy’s both, for the most part, hit the first three; neither, unfortunately, is by a BART station. However, a lot of people in the group don’t like the food selection at Milano’s—the pizza is good, but some people don’t want pizza every single week. Further, their drink selection (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) is extremely limited, whereas Kennedy’s has a full bar and serves things like mango lassis.

Milano’s is usually quiet, but when there’s another large group in that back room, it does get extremely loud, something a number of people have complained about. With Kennedy’s, we’ll have a back room to ourselves when it’s available, and otherwise will have to find space for ourselves. I suspect it will also be too loud some of the time, but we’ll see how that goes.

Apparently the Kennedy’s management think that the extra people, even if we’re not spending that much, are good for the establishment, and so should be more positive about our presence—or at least indifferent, which is better than annoyed. I think that our group will spend more there, too, because of the larger selection.

For me personally, Kennedy’s is a better spot because it’s much easier to get to from either work or home.

Canvas, while it had problems, always felt like home to the group. Maybe that’s because it was the venue for so long, but I think there was more to it than that. Milano’s has never felt like home, somehow. We stayed there a year, which is fine—you really don’t want to move a group like this around much or you lose people—but leaving it doesn’t feel like a significant event the way leaving Canvas was. Hopefully Kennedy’s will work out better, and I hope our stay there is longer.

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