On October 7th, 2010, Oakland's Tiki Tom's Restaurant burned down in a blaze of fire that rang up an estimated $750,000 worth of building damage. There was, and still as of this writing, no known cause of the fire. According to several sources, the building was chain locked, and while the power had been turned off, PG&E reported it wasn't their doing.
The fire was officially labeled "suspicious."
Everything was burned, including the boat, a Tampa 66 Chris Craft according to Tom Davies AKA "Tiki Tom", docked on the Oakland Estuary, and in back of the eatery.
The restaurant that was located at 329 29th Avenue with the frog on top was at the center of what it's owner, "Tiki Tom" called "The Oakland Riviera" during a video tour.
This blogger was taken there the day before my 48th birthday on August 4th, and by long-time friends Bob and Barbara Schock, who are new Oakland District Four Councilmember Libby Schaaf's parents.
As I taken with the atmostphere, food, and cocktails of the place, I asked for the owner's permission to make a full video of Tiki Tom's, and out came Tiki Tom himself. (Who looks a lot like my long-time friend Lars Frykman, but without the beard.) The result was one of the wackiest tours I've ever taken of anyplace in my life.
The video - the last one of the entire restaurant and perhaps the only one that includes the boat in its interior - reflects that.
On the day we visited, there was almost no one in the place. Save for one guy at the bar and four of what turned out to be Tom's friends near the water-side and rear of the facility, and the wait staff, Tiki Tom's was empty. They were happy to be able to serve us.
But once I turned on the Flip Video Camcorder (one the CNN iReport staff gave me for being an iReport beta contributor in 2007 and that Flip created especially for CNN) man his eyes lit up, and off we went, starting with a talk about the frog on the top of the building. (I didn't say he was going to be on CNN, or anything like that, but hey having that specially-made camcorder works.)
I asked him about the frog, and he went into a hilarious wild-man rant, saying it's at the top of the place because "people can't find it without the frog. They go round-and-round like they're in Mexico, man!" Then Tom went on a rant about how he got it that was so fast and funny it was hard to understand. What he was saying was that his buddy who owned it paid $10,000 for it, and he paid $500 worth of drinks for it, "now leave my frog alone!"
He recommended I order their signature dish, the coconut prawns. I did, and they were excellent, along with the oysters and sanddabs. Then the Tiki Tom tour started.
Tom said that Tiki Tom's has, or now had surfboards dating back as far as 1930 with the youngest one made in 2002, making his place the only West Coast, California, all exclusive surfboard collection, handcrafted and ridden by Tom himself at every beach along the California coast." Tom even shared his scar from being bitten by an "albino alligator."
Then, with belly full of a lot of seafood, and Michael Jackson's Beat It blaring through the place, Tom took me on a quick tour that ended on his boat, the Tampa 66 Chris Craft.
We got on the boat via a ladder that's not directly connected to it, so you really have to watch your step. But once you're on it, it's part time. Or was.
Tom said he had a lot of parties on the boat; I got the impression that if the boat could talk, a best-selling book and movie would result. At the very least.
Richard Branson's Surfboard?
On the way back to the table where I left Bob and Barbara, Tom pointed to a surfboard on the ceiling he said was once owned by Virgin Billionaire Richard Branson. More on that, later.
Tiki Tom, The Oakland Character
Since the fire, Tom Davies has not been officially seen. I don't know what happened to him. But, given all that I've seen and heard, and nothing not online or in this video or blog, I think Tom may have been cash-strapped and figured that burning the place down was the only way to recover some money and help his staff.
Just a guess.
We asked the waitress where everyone was and she said they were a little lean on patrons, or words to that effect. It's no secret the weak economy has been hard on Oakland, as it's near 20 percent unemployment rate has shown. But it's really, really sad that Tom lost his beloved business and boat. It's also sad that Oakland's lost such a wonderful place.
From the video below, it looks like he had a lot of friends and had a lot of fun: