The Pine Cone's fifth story of the week

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AT+T commercial closes town's main street for two days


Published: February 27, 2009

A HOLLYWOOD production company filming an expensive TV commercial in Pacific Grove that forced a two-day closure of Lighthouse Avenue this week brought complaints from some businesses but praise from others.

Besides closing the main street and tying up traffic, the commercial filmed Monday and Tuesday for AT&T cellular phone service blocked off dozens of parking spaces. But it also brought dozens of technicians and actors to town as the production company, Smuggler, shot scenes at the Red House Cafe, Miss Trawick’s Garden Shop and other P.G. locations.

“It was the best thing that happened to P.G. this year,” said Moe Ammar, president of the chamber of commerce. “It was very exciting for P.G. to see Hollywood here.”

But some businesses weren’t so impressed.

Kevin Fournier, owner of Fournier’s Bakery Cafe at 650 Lighthouse Ave., said his business suffered because of the production.

“It had an impact in that it was the slowest two days of the year,” Fournier said. “Both directions were blocked, and people had to go around.”

Fournier said he didn’t know about the commercial until the crew began filming.

“If they hadn’t brought their own caterers,” he said, “it might have brought some business.”

The production company paid the city $5,000 per day for two days to shoot in P.G. It also put down a $20,000 deposit for police and public works services.

One store owner, who wanted to remain anonymous, said he lost an estimated $700 in the two days the commercial was being shot because of the street closures. The owner said he was never notified the streets were going to be closed.

Ammar said he personally notified every business in the area about the commercial and that streets would be closed.

Another shop reported sales were unusually slow and attributed the slow down to the closure of Lighthouse Avenue.

Jeanne Graham, owner of the Hand Maden, said she got a lot of calls from confused visitors thrown off by the road closure trying make their way to a quilt-making workshop at Asilomar Conference Grounds. She also said sales were a bit slower because of the parking spaces that were blocked off.

Some shops benefitted

But other shops and restaurants had no problems with the commercial and the closure of Lighthouse Avenue.

Holly Hanmer, owner of Holly’s Lighthouse Cafe at 602 Lighthouse, said the shoot didn’t have a noticeable effect on her business.

Hanmer said the production crew also approached her several weeks ago saying they wanted to use her restaurant for the commercial. They offered to pay her to shut down her eatery.

“They called like three or four times, and then never called back,” she said.

Bill and Rosemary Valuch, the owners of Miss Trawick’s Garden Shop next door to the Red House Cafe, benefited from the commercial shoot.

“They paid us to close for a day,” Rosemary Valuch said.

The crew, which she said was very respectful of the store, was at the shop for about three hours filming.

The owners of the Red House were also paid to shut down while crews filmed.

And several other businesses on and near Lighthouse Avenue told The Pine Cone sales were about the same for the two days the film crew was camped out there.

Though local restaurants would ideally have been hired to provide food for the film crew, Ammar said it wasn’t possible.

“Some [crew members] have special dietary needs such as gluten free, spice-free and vegetarian,” Ammar said.

But Ammar said the North Hollywood-based catering truck only served breakfast and lunch, and that many of the roughly 70-person crew ate at local restaurants for dinner. They also stayed in Pacific Grove inns, Ammar said.

“It’s truly the greatest thing that could happen to us on a Monday or Tuesday, which is typically dead,” Ammar said.

Mayor Dan Cort suggested that next time, the city should have fliers available that let production companies know they can use local services for their shoot.

“We have such a vast variety of food and other businesses,” Cort said.