From his property just west of Rohnert Park, Danny Nakash has watched with anticipation the rapid rise of the casino being built by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.
It is a sight he long waited for because it signals what he hopes will be a boon to his business, Raz Taxi.
"Hopefully, I will be very happy," said Nakash, who said he bought the Whistler Avenue property eight years ago with the casino in mind. His company also provides service in Santa Rosa.
He got permission to operate in Rohnert Park in 2012, at the forward edge of a rush of taxi operators applying to do business in the city.
Five prospective taxi operators have applied for permits since January, seeking to join the five already licensed. The agenda for almost every City Council meeting includes a taxi operator's application. They are drawn by the prospect of thousands of visitors a day to what will be the Bay Area's largest casino, projected to open late this year.
"I see it growing a lot because of the casino," Ahferom Legesse said of his three-car All City Taxi company, which in February got approval to do business in Rohnert Park.
City officials aren't surprised by the interest.
"It was expected with the casino coming," said Rohnert Park Public Safety Lt. Jeff Taylor. The department regulates the city's taxi companies.
But the rush of applications has caused some concern on the City Council and among longer-term taxi operators.
"I don't think there's too many right at the moment, but I think it's something the council needs to address, to see if there's some sort of ordinance to put on the books to limit them," said Vice Mayor Joe Callinan.
"I think it will be an issue if we don't address it," he said.
At Luxury Taxi, where the cars have disco balls, TVs and karaoke, co-owner James Case reluctantly agreed.
"I hate to tell people not to start a new business, but I think they need to put a cap on it at some point; there's already a lot of cabs in this town," he said.
Case is not sure that the casino will be as much of a financial boost for taxis as some operators believe. He said he's been told the gambling palace will provide its own cars for high rollers. Also, many other customers will arrive by bus.
"I hope it brings a lot of business and it's more than I anticipate," he said, "but having five more companies isn't going to help."
Operators like Nakash say the market will sort out what is needed. "Competition is always healthy," he said. "The customer will go to the best service."
In either case, said Councilman Amy Ahanotu, the city needs to make sure it closely monitors the quality and service offered.
"I'm hoping the city will develop a policy to properly manage the growth of taxicabs and also regulate the industry," he said.
"We encourage businesses to come into Rohnert Park but also we have to make sure we manage the process better," he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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