Sunday, September 4, 2011

Wilmington Night Life and the Central City Planners

There's a rule that was implemented just a few years ago stating that no new liquor license can be granted to a downtown establishment within 330 ft. of an establishment that has a pre-existing license.

This essentially prohibits any new bars or places with liquor licenses from opening downtown.

Additionally, if a place that had a liquor license remains vacant for a year, it can no longer pass on its license to the person who next buys the property.

This is exactly what happened with Diesel downtown.  It's right by Front and Market, one of the key spots in downtown.  It's remained vacant for over a year, and now I have no idea how they're going to sell it considering that the place is set up to be a bar or music venue and the new owner wouldn't be able to use it as one because of this rule.

At least partially because of these rules, we have a 23% vacancy rate downtown.

There is also extremely strict zoning downtown.  I've heard of people downtown having the most minute of decisions questioned by the zoning department.

This is ridiculous.  We're hampering growth, and by hampering growth we're hampering people having a good time.  That doesn't mean just going to a bar.  That means starting any kind of business, or expanding any kind of business.  "Growth" is not an end in itself, but as a means to achieve greater happiness.

Wilmington seems to be missing that.

Here are some quotes from the article.

ABC Chairman Jon Williams didn’t know how downtown Wilmington’s density of bars compared to other downtowns across the state, but he said “there’s no question it’s a high density.”
Not as much as in Colonial America when there were literally about 10x as many bars per capita as there are now.
The ABC Commission, for some time, has had the power to deny alcohol permit applications based on density. But no density standard was ever established in the state, meaning it would be quite difficult to defend the denial in court, Williams said.
“There has not been research to look at what variables you would even factor in,” he said.
ABC officials consulted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which suggests regulating the concentration of alcohol establishments to curb alcohol-related health issues, but CDC officials couldn’t offer a definition or standard for suggested density, Williams said.

[...]The poster child for the regulation’s success is a new women’s boutique that opened this summer in the spot where Terry wanted to move his bar, said John Hinnant, executive director of Wilmington Downtown Inc. – a group that receives funding from the city to recruit business to downtown.
Wowie Zowie. You mean we got one whole "women's boutique" in exchange for letting clubs like Diesel rot into obscurity and preventing other establishments from opening? What a great deal. ;)
O’Grady thinks the policies set in place a year ago have already reduced the proliferation of bars and helped shape the future of downtown’s business climate.

“People don’t know that it’s worked, but it did,” he said.
Ahhh, so O'Grady can see exactly what would have happened, but other people can't. What deep insight he must have.

This is coming from pretty much a non-drinker: people are free to do what they choose with their lives as long as it's not illegal. Drinking, if you're of age, is not illegal. Opening a bar is not illegal. Bars, believe it or not, have a long traditional of being incubators of liberty in America. In Colonial America, they were hotbeds for racial integration and building dissent against the British. They are places where people allow themselves to feel free, which I think is much needed in our current society.

This is not an excuse for people to go out and break laws, but I do not think that these bars are necessarily leading to that. Firstly, people should remember that downtown calls for police assistance dropped 30% last year, and the number of bars didn't drop 30%. Clearly, there are other factors.

Some things that we can do to discourage crime downtown are:

* Lobby the state for an exemption from the mandatory 2 a.m. closing time. This forces a bunch of drunk people into the street in close proximity to each other.

* Put more police downtown. If there's crime, there should be police.

* Remove the cap of 155 on taxis. I've heard that it can take hours to get a taxi late at night downtown.

If there are other zoning restrains downtown, which I believe there are, that could be prohibiting growth. It may be leading to just one type of establishment being set up downtown. We need to look at all these issues.

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