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Mobile’s Entertainment District Fiasco: A Modest Proposal

31 Mar 2013

written by Anonymous

Mobile's Entertainment District Fiasco: A Modest Proposal

 

Now, you all know we aren’t ones to sit back and say “WE TOLD YOU SO!”

Yes, it is true, we pleaded with the city council “PLEASE Don’t Screw Up The Entertainment District!

And in recent days we have received reports like the following:

“Last night, while having dinner with several people … at the Union restaurant on Dauphin St, I and another guest stepped just outside the door to smoke.  I carried my glass of wine with me as I’ve done on many occasions there and at other establishments such as Noja and Royal Scan (sic).  Within moments of stepping out of the door into the alcove off the sidewalk, a police cruiser with its lights on pulled quickly up to the curb and threatened to arrest me and the other guest.  He conveyed that the department had been given strict orders that the new ordinance was to be enforced with zero tolerance and with no warnings or accepted excuses.  My humility, politeness and I assume a gathering crowd of onlookers kept me from spending a night in the tank on Easter weekend. I believe it was his absolute intention to arrest me when he pulled up.  I admit I haven’t followed the new ordinance debate very closely and was not that familiar.  On the way to my home on … Dauphin, I was passed by a mounted officer and asked him the specifics of the ordinance.  He politely told me that the Department didn’t think it had enough resources to properly enforce the ordinance and that his Lt. had instructed officers to make a demonstration to the Council by arresting with zero tolerance as many people violating the new ordinance as possible.  I have no idea if this is true, but only what he shared to me and another individual who was with me… I don’t believe enough education has been done for an immediate zero tolerance enforcement.  I also don’t believe that sending people to jail to make political or budget statements is a noble purpose for law enforcement either.  It so frustratingly seems that we over complicate every issue that relates to downtown.  I’ve lived on Dauphin Street for 8 of my 10 years spent in Mobile.  I don’t believe alcohol is the problem downtown, or noise.  It’s crime, perceived crime, and vagrancy.  I will go to jail for my glass of cabernet just outside the door of an eating establishment, but can live in the park and harass citizens for money without penalty?  This just doesn’t make any sense.”

“Last night at The Haberdasher a mounted cop literally got off his high horse and threatened our staff and patrons in a Gestapo style manner with arrests etc. This was absolutely uncalled for and greatly hurt our business. If the goal of establishing an Entertainment District was to hurt instead of help business, they are doing a fine job of it.”

“The Bar owners are outraged about what is going on with the Entertainment district. The MPD is out of control…
I understand the the Chief of Police is requesting $600,000 at this week’s city council meeting. Just wanted to give you a heads up on what I have been hearing about from customers and bar owners the last couple of nights.”

“According to the bar employees I’ve spoken to, it is perfectly legal to drink on the porch as long as the alcohol isn’t in a glass, glass bottle or a can. I know this because I was at the LoDa Biergarten Friday and we were ushered inside by the police. And by ushered inside I mean he followed us in loudly telling everyone “No drinking outside!””

“I work at a bar that is included in the district and I still do not understand the rules. I feel like it’s entrapment.  I wish this law would have never passed.”

“It seems to me the City Council and the Police need to get their act together if they want the “Entertainment District” to accomplish what it’s intended for. It will never do that the customers are scared to come down for fear of harassment from the cops.”

“Not surprised by the behavior of Mobile’s finest. It’s why we have stopped going out so much. Too risky! I don’t want to end up in jail over some small perceived infraction and then lose my job as a result!”

So yes – now we have quite the conundrum because of Mobile’s absolutely fascinating Entertainment District law.

As the law was being crafted restrictions were added to pacify anyone who had any sort of complaint.   In consequence, the law ended up with a complex of geographic and temporal exceptions.  So much so that patrons, employees, owners, and apparently even the police are confused by the law.

Which had earlier led us to the question:

Now how are we supposed to enforce this? 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.

Officials said they felt that enforcement would be relaxed and “anticipated the Police Department to enforce with a “reasonable” approach.”

But therein lies the rub.  If the Mobile Police don’t enforce the law – that is by confronting or arresting downtown patrons in violation of it – then it decreases the weight of all laws.  Do we really want the Police to be choosing which laws to ignore?

Implications that recent enforcement might be tied to a request for additional funding for the Police Department aside – is it the Police’s fault if the City Council passes a ridiculous law?  Even if this law was, in fact, crafted to actually eliminate some venues downtown in order to gentrify the area as some have suggested – can they just choose to ignore it?

You might say: “Well the patrons deserve what they get. The law is the law. Tourists or not.”

It is true – ignorance of the law is not absolution from the law.

Just like with a drivers’ license.

And that is why we have come up with a solution:  The Mobile Entertainment District “License to Party.”

 

Anyone wishing to enter the Entertainment District should be licensed to do so.

Qualification for licensing would include completion of a 6-hour course in “How to Party in the Mobile Entertainment District” followed by an examination requiring 90% correct response rate.

Areas of examination would include:

  • Hours and days the Entertainment District is in effect
  • Draw the logos of all establishments within the Entertainment District and be able to identify acceptable containers.
  • Given a map of Downtown Mobile draw all of the Entertainment District boundaries.
  • Bonus: History of the Entertainment District.

If the patron is a smoker a “Class C” license can be issued given completion of an additional examination on Mobile’s smoking provisions.

“What about the tourists??” you may ask.  We feel that an abbreviated 3-hour version of the course may be given for out-of state residents wishing to enjoy the Entertainment District with a restricted license.  This course and licensure may be administered in area hotels.

We feel that we can contract with the City of Mobile to administer this program for a mere $1,260,417 a year.  That is a bargain compared to the $1.6 million Police Chief Williams is requesting for additional enforcement.

“But won’t requiring a license kill downtown business?  I mean who has the time to study all these laws?  Why not just go out to West Mobile?”  Well, this is just the price we will have to pay to implement the Entertainment District.

Ed. note: This started as a satire piece but in all seriousness as we have received more information it does appear that the Mobile Police leadership were willing to sacrifice Downtown business for political and budgetary purposes. This should be investigated from the Lieutenant to the Chief. And if the City Council and Mayor bow to these maneuvers then that should REALLY be the “last straw” for voters.

 

 


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