Purchase of eatery shows tribe's economic clout
When the Oak Pit Restaurant on North Main Street closed in May, many people expressed both shock and disappointment. They hated to see a Main Street mainstay go away and feared it may take quite some time to see it reopen, if it ever reopened.
Six months later many are relieved to hear the Tule River Economic Development Corporation has purchased the restaurant with plans to reopen it in the near future.
Over the past 20 years the contributions to the local economy by the tribe have grown by leaps and bounds. From humble beginnings of its casino, the tribe’s economic stature has grown steadily to where today it is a major player in the city’s economic well being.
The purchase of the Oak Pit is just the latest example. From a couple of modular trailers that first housed the casino has come a full-sized casino on the reservation that offers fine dining, gambling and entertainment. That casino has allowed the tribe to begin developing other job opportunities, such as at the Porterville Airport where it owns more than 40 acres.
That was followed by the Eagle Feather gas station and market on Highway 190 near Success Lake, the site where the tribe originally wanted to place the casino. Then, the tribe opened up Eagle Feature 2 in western Kings County and now will open the restaurant.
In each endeavor the tribe is creating jobs not only for those who are members of the tribe, but others as well. The restaurant will probably employ more than two dozen people and generate tax dollars for the city. The tribe employs approximately 600 people at the casino and employs about 1,000 people in total.
A recent study found the benefits of tribal gaming in California, pointing out that the casinos have proven to be a “powerful” economic engine. Efforts by the Tule River Tribe in Porterville certainly back up what that study found.