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Doc’s Diatribe: PLEASE Don’t Screw Up the Entertainment District!

19 Feb 2013

written by Valso

Doc's Diabtribe: PLEASE Don't Screw Up The Entertainment District

 

Doc’s Diatribe:

PLEASE Don’t Screw Up the Entertainment District!

 

The photo above is 451 Dauphin Street early last year (as still seen on Google Maps).

This is 451 Dauphin Street now:

 

What would it take for you to put your savings into a rundown building in Mobile, Alabama and try to make it into a high end bar with cocktails usually made only in places like New Orleans or New York? To fill it with a nice décor – including photos of Old Mobile and the original cash register from Mobile’s Star Fish & Oyster Company? Knowing that businesses in that building and next door (like Island Thyme) have come and gone?

Well, Naude Gouws did just that with the Haberdasher. He took a huge risk to transform one of the many abandoned buildings on Dauphin St. into a fine establishment Mobile can be proud of.

And now what do officials say to him? “Move or go into retail.”

Naude Gouws and Elise Poche working to renovate 451 Dauphin.

Why? Because of typical apathetic, ill-conceived maneuvers from politicians with no plan for development for this city.

How does that look to other potential downtown entrepreneurs – who are desperately needed?

The Alliance, to their credit, spearheaded the creation of an Entertainment District downtown. It is a good idea.  And we would like to believe if it weren’t for politics they would have had it run straight through Dauphin like anyone with a lick of common sense would.

But they didn’t – they cut a deal to get it done. Because of a few people in that area complained they have agreed to screw up the whole concept by excluding three blocks smack-dab in the middle from Cedar to Franklin – which includes The Haberdasher and Alabama Music Box.

Now how are we supposed to enforce that? Have a blockade with armed ABC agents with AR-15s and signs saying “ACHTUNG ENTRITT VERBOTEN” as Danielle Juzan suggests? Hand out maps to tourists so they don’t get arrested crossing Cedar with a drink? That’ll be real nice for our fledgling tourism industry.

We mean REALLY. How do such ideas even get brought up in the City Council?

What other city on Earth would seriously consider this?

Why don’t we ask our high-priced urban planning consultants what they think of this brilliant idea?

It’s not rocket science. One district that runs from Bayou to Royal. EASY.

Based on statements made by the complainers to others – it does appear that Alabama Music Box is being targeted over long-standing grudges.  And they are willing to sacrifice the whole Entertainment District to fulfill their grudges. We have had to say it so many times we are sick of it – but we are STILL amazed that the City Council members do not understand or appreciate Alabama Music Box. We know they have no clue who George Porter Jr. or Teresa Andersson or of Montreal or Lee Bains or Hurray for the Riff Raff or anyone else playing real music today is. But suffice to say every major city in the South has multiple real live music venues where people can hear current, original national and regional “indie” bands nightly. Mobile has one. And they are trying to destroy it and turn Mobile into even more of a cultural BACKWATER.

Alabama Music Box and Haberdasher have far less problems that 90% of the bars on Dauphin. Their patrons are in general more sophisticated than the redneck bars down the street – where you can usually find a fight if you want to.

Regardless, there is apparently still a conception that downtown can be both a quiet retirement community and a thriving tourist center. NEWS FLASH: THAT DOESN’T WORK.

People don’t want to go to a retirement village for vacation. Why don’t you try declaring one of the cookie-cutter suburbs out in West Mobile a tourist destination and see how that works for you?

The ONLY things that are slowly gaining hold downtown are restaurants, bars, and music venues. A little retail secondarily. But NOTHING will survive without the food, drink and music.

Who will ever build another bar in middle-Dauphin with this idiotic ordinance? Much less a restaurant? Why would they?

Imagine Bourbon St. or Royal St. with a huge block of abandoned buildings in the middle of it. Who would propose such a stupid idea? Just get out of the way and let small businesses do their thing.

So the people with Andrews Furniture and Hoffman Furniture and “that guy” Jeff Jordan of Hurricane Graphics want to keep it as is – “quiet”. Boarded-up. Abandoned. Great for them – not so good for all Mobile when we are trying to attract tourists to abandoned buildings.

And the thing is – those businesses are all open primarily during the day.  To contend that they will be inconvenienced at all is a huge stretch. On the other hand, they would probably benefit from people being more likely to leave the bars and stroll the streets – as on Royal Street in New Orleans.  That is why the owners of the Robertson Gallery, across the street from the Hab,  spoke out in favor of the single district.

As opposed to some ephemeral possible occasional inconvenience of the complainers, businesses like The Hab will clearly and concretely suffer from decreased foot traffic that will hurt their business. They are sacrificial lambs here.  They should lawyer up – if forced into a needless time- and money-consuming lawsuit by the City Council to protect their businesses.

And God bless the furniture people for still being there – but they have not revived downtown. For the last 20 to 30 years their neighbors have been empty. And I don’t think there is anyone that will suggest that family-owned furniture stores are a growth industry that will attract tourists. They are fine – and we really want to support them – but we can’t let them shutter everyone around them. We are tired… lord, so tired… of having to continually fight the same people to make progress in this area.  We just need to move on for the good of the city. It’s time for the Alliance and the City Council to stand up and do what’s right for all of Mobile’s citizens.

The future is food and entertainment. Just like any other city center and tourist area. That comes first and the residential falls in behind – with people that want to live in that environment. That is the only way to have a SUCCESSFUL entertainment area.

For YEARS we have dreamed of a Dauphin St. where you could walk from Springhill Ave. to Royal St. and see activity and people and open businesses the whole way.  And we are so close we can touch it.  But instead we are going to cave to people who want it continue to look like a scene from Escape from New York or 28 Days Later?

So PLEASE Downtown Alliance. PLEASE City Council. This is not just about a few complainers. This is about a SMART, COMPREHENSIVE plan for developing our city.

PLEASE don’t mess it up.

And if not – we hope the business owners DO sue you and file an injunction to hold up the whole damn thing for this arbitrary restriction that will damage their business. That is apparently the only way you will learn unfortunately.

Most of our readers are working people, not full-time complainers, and so are unable to make City Council meeting but  please show them your support for a single district. With enough backing they can change the map. Without your feedback they will have to bend to the desires of a few complainers.
Elizabeth Sanders: esanders@downtownmobile.org
Carol Hunter: chunter@downtownmobile.org
William Carroll: council2@cityofmobile.org


2 Comments on Doc’s Diatribe: PLEASE Don’t Screw Up the Entertainment District!

  1. Klee

    Bingo, Doc! I’ve talked about this until I’m blue in the face, written about it as well on this very site – http://modmobilian.com/2011/03/kevin-lee-lodas-lust-for-life/ – but it seems to have done little to help.

    That said, I think I feel a similar rant bubbling up from me again.

  2. briar5559

    For all those not abreast: quick video recap http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qx4ke-z7bo


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