The city council wants to have a community conversation and dialogue (and we are going to give them one on October 14, 7 pm, at the Davis Police Department, where the Davis Vanguard and Civenergy will have a panel discussion, more details on Monday) on the downtown bar scene. I just worry that the conversation will be dominated by people my age and older who do not have any use for the late night scene.
In addition to my concern that people who do not utilize or really understand a particular scene are using government to curtail the otherwise lawful activities of others, I worry about unintended consequences.
The Davis Enterprise in an editorial this weekend writes, “It was wise of the Davis City Council to step in immediately after the recent tragedy to order an emergency moratorium on any new bars.”
I continue to support the notion of added patrol officers, but I’m failing to see how that is likely to stop the activities we seem to fear. The editorial captures that fear, “If you’re letting in packs of out-of-towners with gang tattoos on their faces, that’s a problem. If you’re letting people in who’ve obviously had a head start on the night’s drinking, that’s a problem. If your patrons are running out to their cars to get a quick sip, that’s a problem.”
The editorial suggests, “If it takes pat-downs, wands and bag checks to keep people safe, that’s not too much to ask.” And I wonder if we aren’t continuing to overreact to a very bad tragedy in ways that the overall conditions do not seem to warrant.
But here is my bigger concern.
The Enterprise writes, “Beyond the moratorium, the council really needs to take a look at what kind of downtown we want. In the aftermath of the financial downturn, more and more retail spots converted to restaurants. And, in a crowded field, the restaurants rely more and more on alcohol sales.
“Blondies is the business most affected by the moratorium. Looking to expand from Vacaville into the old Little Prague spot on G Street, its plan is to be a pizza joint by day and, like KetMoRee, a nightclub after dark. We’re not short of pizza in this town, and we really have to wonder if we need the bachelorette parties and ‘hot yoga pants’ contests that seem to be Blondies’ stock in trade.”
They conclude, “We are at a crossroads here. Is downtown Davis going to become a regional party destination, or are we going to try to hold the line and keep it a safe, fun place for locals and students? It’s up to the council and the downtown businesses to chart the correct way forward.”
The reaction to this tragedy has me very concerned. Davis remains among the safest places in the country – and we are going to severely cut back on our liberties based on a single incident? The notable thing about looking at the list of calls for service at KetMoRee is that, while there were a lot of them, most of them were very minor.
When did we become a bunch of uptight residents who are apparently too sophisticated to allow the 20-something crowd to blow off some steam through a variety of activities in the late night scene? I agree that is a matter of what kind of downtown Davis is going to become, but I fear we become one that is unfriendly to the college crowd and made in the image of the 50-somethings and above, who make the majority of decisions in the city.
There is the danger of overreacting to a horrible tragedy. There is the potential for unintended consequences. While the Assistant Chief reports that drinking is down among UC Davis students, there is still a sizable population that drinks.
Making it less pleasant for young people to enjoy their evening in Davis will probably push many to leave town, while pushing others to simply buy their beer at the local markets and have parties and drink in their own residences – where Victorian rules of morality by the rest of the community don’t apply.
In the former case, we run the risk of young people, instead of being able to walk or take the bus or local taxis to get the downtown bar scene, climb into their cars, drive to Sacramento, drink heavily and then foolishly attempt to drive back.
We may solve a problem of downtown violence by increasing the likelihood and frequency of catastrophic accidents on the highway late at night.
On the other hand, it can be safer and easier for students to simply drink more at their own residences. In recent years we have made some headway in dealing with the inevitable confrontation between town and gown, by encouraging conversations between students and older residents regarding parties.
Shutting off the downtown bar scene or making it less appealing could well push the drinking back into the neighborhoods. And so we may end up with a cleaner downtown scene and a more messy local party scene.
I agree that we stand at a crossroads, but I fear those crossroads are marked with overreactions to a horrible tragedy which caused many to question the safety and to want to reconstruct the bubble. The reality is that crime is still very low in Davis, this remains a safe place to live, and we have a reasonable balance between safety and liberties in this community.
I think the conversations are necessary, and the Vanguard hopes to facilitate some of them, but the moratorium to me puts the focus on the wrong aspects of this. I think we can be safe without shutting down the scene that many enjoy.
—David M. Greenwald reporting