There are individuals angry that the city council allowed Blondies to go forward with building their new establishment at the site that formerly housed Little Prague. I have seen calls for boycotting the Davis bar scene – arguing that since most of the bars are restaurants by day, if people want to limit their liquor sales, they should stop purchasing food by night.
However, I would argue against that approach for a number of very different reasons.
The first thing is that the bars are actually moving in the right direction now. As Darren Pytel, the Assistant Chief of the Davis Police Department, explained, “The problem was no one wanted to take the first step.” The bars were afraid that if they imposed new regulations and the others didn’t that would put them at a competitive disadvantage.
However, with the tragedy at KetMoRee, the pushback from the community and the city council, the bars are belatedly getting their act together. Already several have implemented wanding at their locations.
This has had some success as it has prevented several knives from going into the facility. As Darren Pytel put it, “So it’s larger than just Blondies. It’s about all the locations working together to improve safety and also send a message that weapons in downtown are not ok.”
Some places like Tres Hermanas are ending their late night dance clubs. The bars are getting together on bringing in some off-duty police officers on their own dimes to help better patrol the downtown.
A boycott would seem to be a legitimate response if the bars were doing nothing new about dealing with the problems – that seems to be far from the case.
Second, while the city council did narrowly vote to grant the exemption to Blondies, they did so imposing quite a few regulations on them.
Blondies will have to contract with a licensed armed security provider, or most likely the city of Davis, to provide supplemental police services on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 pm to 1:30 am (half an hour after the close of business).
The location will fundamentally change the way they provide service – they have to be equipped with adequate numbers of seats, and food will be made available at all times.
Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis on Tuesday night called it “a shot across the bow,” or telegraphing how “things are probably going to go,” in terms of potential new permanent regulations.
He added, “I was actually thinking we’re not creating a nightclub if we set the conditions the way they’re set here. We’re pointing a direction to a future that’s going to be fundamentally different.”
As he pointed out later, “There’s a certain balance that should be struck.”
We asked earlier this week if the council went far enough in striking a balance – I would still like to see more in the way of patrol officers, but that seems to be the direction things are moving.
Moreover, other peripheral problems will hopefully be fixed as well. One huge problem has been the lack of accessible restrooms in the downtown. As a father of a small child, it is difficult to find a restroom in general during the day. I was told that we will be adding public restrooms, so-called Portland toilets, in the downtown next year, that hopefully will help reduce the problem of public urination – some of which may not be malicious so much as lack of access to bathrooms.
Again, people may not like the decision to allow Blondies to go forward, but clearly the council, while divided on that issue, is united on the idea that they will change the bar scene downtown through additional regulation.
Finally, a boycott can only work with a huge critical mass of people buying into the need for the boycott and staying away. The problem is that the people who are likely to boycott downtown businesses are probably not the people who are the core customers.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott ultimately worked after a year because the people boycotting the bus were the bulk of the customers. In this case, you have a downtown that relies heavily on lunch time sales, most of which are generated by people working in the downtown, people working at UC Davis, and students – none of these groups, for different reasons, are likely to join in.
Even if you could have an effect with a boycott, the reason a lot of these facilities went the late night route was to supplement their revenue because the normal day sales were insufficient.
Talking to Sergio Saenz of Tres Hermanas, he said that, as successful as his restaurant has been, closing down the nightclub is a scary endeavor and there are days when things are slow that doubts start to creep in. It might be ironic, but a boycott might make those businesses more dependent on the late night scene rather than more likely to change.
To me, however, the bottom line here is that the council is taking this issue seriously. From all accounts, the downtown bars are working together on solutions, and so we need to support them rather than boycott them – make it less scary to do the right thing.
What we have going forward is a compromise. No one got everything they wanted – instead it was a give and take. And that will be the real key as we go forward – the ability to keep the downtown scene going but make it safer for everyone involved and clean up the nuisance for the people who live in the core area.
—David M. Greenwald reporting