THEY’RE THE COUNTRY’S in-demand dance troupe. The San Diego–based JabbaWockeeZ have made the rounds on the national awards-show circuit, sharing the stage with the Pussycat Dolls at the MTV Video Music Awards and hip-hop superstar Ne-Yo at the BET Awards. They’ve also performed at the BMI Awards and the Teen Choice Awards.
The all-male dance crew with the funny name (derived from the Lewis Carroll poem “Jabberwocky”) first garnered national attention in 2006, when they appeared on America’s Got Talent. Last March, they were the winners on the MTV hip-hop dance series Randy Jackson Presents America’s Best Dance Crew. Since then, the group, whose mission is “to inspire the world through music and dance,” is entertaining a fast-growing fan base with freestyle skills, performed in their signature white gloves and face masks.
Established in 2003, the group is the brainchild of Joe Larot, Kevin Brewer and Phil Tayag, who wanted to showcase freestyle dance. Today there are 11 members. In addition to a busy touring schedule, the group recently created a street-wear clothing line, JBWKZ, available for purchase at JBWKZ.com. ——J.B.P.
THERE’S SOMETHING deliciously ironic about our changing relationship with food. Old problem: obesity. New problem: can’t afford the stuff that’s making us fat.
Caught between what we shouldn’t have and what we can no longer afford is the hard-working restaurateur. Make no mistake, local eateries are feeling the recessionary bite. They’re fighting back with specials and a little cheese to go with that recessionary whine.
“Restaurants are down across the board,” says James Brennan, CEO/partner of EnDev, which operates Stingaree in the Gaslamp and Universal-Dish in Hillcrest. He says he experienced “some shell shock” over particularly weak weekends in October on the restaurant side, though his bar business is picking up the slack.
“People are still partying,” Brennan says. “Bars are recession-proof.”
So that we’re not partying on empty stomachs, at Stingaree he’s running specials at prices generally reserved for the promotional San Diego Restaurant Week ——for $30, or about half-price. He’s also offering wine specials at Universal-Dish.
“It’s a very tough market,” Brennan says. “But we’re still selling out our [alcohol] table service. On a Saturday night, we’re selling 40-some tables. It’s not like we’re trying to attract 1,000 people for bottle service; we only need about 50 in the entire county, and they’re still out there.”
At high-end Jack’s in La Jolla, owner Bill Berkley says food sales are about 8 percent lower than normal, and diners are cutting back on wine while opting for the lower-priced end of the menu. Jack’s is tempting diners with half-price bottles of wine on Wednesday and two-for-one entrées (the free entrée is the lower-priced of the two, and you have to register on the Web site: jackslajolla.com).
Discount fever is the rage even at the Marine Room in La Jolla.
“As summer ended, we saw where things were going,” says general manager Dennis Rush. “There was a smaller head count coming in, down 8 to 10 percent.”
The Marine Room is reeling in diners with its “passport menu,” a three-course, half-price dinner for $40. Rush is also going where no Marine Room has gone before.
“We’ve never had a Happy Hour, so we decided to start one,” he says. “It’s a wine-and-cheese experience where we select five different cheeses and match them with wines from around the world. It’s a nice way to watch the sunset.” The wine is $7 a glass, and the cheese is complimentary.
For those who enjoy watching waves slap against the Marine Room during high tides, the restaurant presents “high tides in the morning” with breakfast for three days in November, December and January.
But the best deals out there may be in the beaten-down stock of San Diego–based restaurant chains.
For less than the cost of one of the combo plates, investors can feast on a share of Rubio’s Restaurants, which was trading at around $4 in early November, near its 52-week low of $3.50——and a fraction of its high of $10.78. A month earlier, Carlsbad-based Rubio’s received a buyout offer of $5 per share, a 20 percent premium, from private-equity firm and 6 percent stakeholder Kelly Capital Investments.
“Rubio’s is just a victim of the plunge in consumer spending,” says Bud Leedom, editor of locally based Californiastocks.com. “The buyout offer is a joke, as the company is worth far more in a more normalized environment.”
Another bargain investment is Jack in the Box (JBX). In early November, Jack was trading at $17.72, nearer its 52-week low of $14.94 than its high of $32.32.
“JBX should benefit somewhat from the ‘trade down’ effect as consumers shun sit-down restaurants for cheaper fast food,” Leedom says. “This benefit is being offset by the slowdown in consumer spending, but head-to-head, the fast-food restaurants are being viewed more favorably than casual restaurants.”
Bon appétit. ——RICH ACELLO
Social Networking Grows Up
AS THE MOTHER OF FOUR KIDS——three in college and one in high school——Carmel Valley resident Yana Berlin was familiar with popular social networking Web sites MySpace and Facebook. But as she approached her 40th birthday, she yearned for an online community that reflected her own life stage, issues and interests.
“I woke up in the middle of the night with this idea: What if I start a community for women over 40?” says Berlin. “I didn’t want to share the same online space as my kids. Where could I connect to women like me?”
The answer: Fabulously40.com, geared toward women 40 and older.
It’s been three years since Berlin’s middle-of-the-night Aha! moment. The site now gets more than a million page views per month and has members from around the country and the world.
“We have a lot of women thanking us for giving them a space where they can connect with other women who share the same concerns and issues, whether it’s their hormones or their husbands,” says Berlin. Among the site’s popular sections are the blogs, which address a range of topics, including family, career, parenting, relationships and health.
“Women of this demographic are old enough to know what they want and young enough to do something about it,” she says. “Fabulously40.com is the space where they can do what they want and have a support system.”
Berlin plans to launch local chapters, where members can connect offline for a girls’ night out or a book club. “We still like that face-to-face contact,” she says. “You can’t have a martini over the Internet.” ——J.B.P.