The Sea Shanty suffers the wrath of SLO County

October 11, 2020

Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted biweekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin.


I ran into Bill Shea, owner of the Sea Shanty restaurant in Cayucos, and he was irate over the results of my article in Cal Coast News about his creativity, originality and eccentric personality of the protective hay bale barricades protecting his outdoor diners.

Bill was not irate with me. He liked the article. Bill is also an old friend, somebody I genuinely like and the last person whose business I’d want to hurt. Hell, I don’t want to hurt anybody’s business, especially now during a pandemic, when everybody is struggling. Doing so has made me feel like a pariah and churned in my gut.

But I felt that in a small beach burg like Cayucos, trying desperately to hang on to its quirkiness in the face of radical gentrification and the overwhelming infusion of wealthy, boring, entitled stiffs, I might highlight Bill’s charming effort to help beautify our surroundings in a way that does not blend with the sterile building going up everywhere.

Bill is one of our last genuine characters. And the Sea Shanty is a Cayucos treasure, a joint most people who visit me want to go to because it oozes the comfort of another time, a time when simple casual diners wanted good solid American food in an environment where they could talk loudly and belly laugh and feel a freedom to utterly be themselves as they chowed down.

But then there is officialdom, and the sticklers inhabiting it, who spend their lives hell bent on enforcing petty rules and restrictions. Bill told me that the person who read my article reacted with anger and informed Bill he would have to replace his hay bales with expensive K-railings or water filled barricade systems.

And Bill would have to pay the price. Had I not written such an article, the person reading it probably would never been made aware of Bill’s hay bales and nothing certainly would have gone wrong. And Bill’s pockets would not have to be picked.

I suppose the person who read my article disdained the idea of Bill taking matters into his own hands, and also felt the part about the hay bales protecting the Shanty’s diners from being crashed in upon or visited by “bicycle riders, car drivers, teenage skateboarders, dogs, or stupid drunks aroused by the cloying aromas emanating from kitchens” placed diners in potentially tragic danger.

That is hardly so.

But I guess in America we need barricades. This is not a safe country anymore. We need protection along with strict conformity at all times. I wonder if in France and Italy and Greece and Spain and other European countries, where al fresco dining has gone on in sidewalk cafes as tradition for centuries, and infuses diners with a sense of festivity, if big ugly block-like barricades would be accepted or reviled as anathema to eclectic atmosphere.

I felt the simplicity and personal individuality of Bill’s hay bales and Carol’s flowers and plants upon them was a creation that again signified Cayucos as one of the last unique places on the coast, a last outpost where we could get away with a few minor infringements. And we could have a few laughs about small town goofiness. That’s all I wanted to portray.

But no. Officialdom prevails; and those in it have the last word. Which means Bill Shea pays the price for boring, ugly, no-personality barricades like everybody else in San Luis Obispo County.

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If they’re in the public right-of-way and something happens who gets sued? The County aka taxpayers. Mr Shea could get a massive liability insurance policy naming the County as additional insured and eliminate the need for County approved barriers for which the County is accepting liability for. And the oracle, Mr. Franklin, needs to accept reality. I can tell you stories about my parent’s house in SLO bought for $7,500 in 1956 in the then run-down railroad district of SLO now worth 100x that or Cayucos houses on the water for $30,000 in the 70’s all day long as well. What’s your point?