Thursday, October 20, 2005

TRAFFIC: ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE

The Traffic nightclub incident continues to draw comment from readers, like this from Thom:
Thought that I might add a little personal perspective about Traffic: It was a bad place and needs to be shut down.

Normally I would be crying some sort of foul. As a denizen of Patton Alley where my primary hangout, Queen City Cycles, resides I am quite pleased with the city's latest jihad. Traffic club goers are constantly mouthy and rude to everyone downtown, particularly cyclists. I have been verbally assaulted by Trafficers several times, and everyone who frequents the bike shop has a similar story, including my daughter who is nine.Earlier in the evening of the most recent incident a small group on the sidewalk outside Traffic tried to start a fight with my friend Josh, who is one of the owners of Queen City Cycles.

We are trying to encourage a Vibrating, Clean and Safe downtown (vibrant is okay, but vibrating has flavor crystals!). We have weekly rides, we drink heartily at the pubs, we spend our dollars at the shops and eateries that are downtown; we ride with our kids and our kids spend dollars downtown.

You can have an exiting downtown that has bars and family-friendly entertainment. The problem with Traffic is that it openly catered to and encouraged underage drinking. Most of the kids that could be found there were closer to high school than legal drinking age and I can't imagine that they were very strict with their ID policy. The attitude of the place was all tough guy, spring break booty contest.

I am glad that I won't have to deal with Traffic at least for the near term. These are my opinions and are colored by my views of that scene, but trust me, most downtowners that prefer to drink a beer, have some food and enjoy the scene will tell you they are pleased Traffic is on the ropes.

BTW, the suggestions you made regarding staggered close, food and beverage after close and learning from places like Jordan Valley are right on, I'm glad that you are saying it. Too bad the Snooze Leader and the rest of the reactionaries aren't.
Got a thought about Traffic and the city's response? Drop it here.

1 comment:

Michael Brothers said...

Ron,

Somehow my column was omitted from the NL web site today. In case you hadn't seen it -- or if some of your readers who think I'm 'snoozing' hadn't seen it -- here it is. Your idea about closing time is a good one, and one that's been tossed around by the bars and their patrons for some time. The irony is that incidents like this will make it nearly impossible for the broader community as a whole to support such a change.

Mike B



Don’t blame the music: Club safety a group effort

Let’s talk frankly about the brawl last weekend outside the Traffic dance club.

Things got way out of hand. I live downtown and have hung out there for years, and this was truly a shock to me.

The violence can be curbed by making some changes to club policy and law enforcement practices. I have a few suggestions. But first, let’s recap:

Following closing time at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, several fights broke out among the crowd of a few hundred hanging out on the sidewalk. The melee was apparently sparked by a man who attacked a bouncer with a knife. After it escalated, police called backup, and within minutes some 50 officers were on Walnut Street.

Club manager Sean Kisner said Traffic was attracting a bad element by playing too much hard-core rap music and vowed to change the tunes as well as institute a dress code banning ball caps, jerseys and baggy shirts.

The city is coming down hard. Wednesday it served owner Michael Ngo and the club notice that Traffic is in violation of the city’s nuisance ordinance. If Traffic has future violations, the club could close.

Kisner and Ngo say they will take steps to fix the problem and should be given another chance, but the city says it has met with them before about incidents at Traffic and even served the club a nuisance warning earlier that night.
What burns me the most is Kisner and Ngo passing the buck by blaming the music and by saying the situation is out of their hands once patrons hit the sidewalk.

Sure, to deny that music affects people would be to deny everything I’ve written in this column the last four years. Music helps draw in a crowd. But a song does not make people act like fools, throw punches or stab others. I am sick and tired of music, movies and video games constantly held up as scapegoats for knuckleheaded actions.

I feel for the DJs, too. I don’t know the DJs at Traffic personally, but I know how DJs are treated. Club owners hound them to bring in a big crowd. The crowd gets out of hand and it’s the DJ’s fault? It’s a no-win situation.

To be fair, I agree some of those causing these fights are not Traffic patrons. I’ve been there. It’s safe. On the whole, it’s not much different from any other club.

Yet problems keep happening outside. Why? What truly attracts the wrong “element” — their word, not mine — to Traffic is the “power hour” drink special. From 9 to 11 p.m., patrons can drink all they want for a one-time charge. After that, drinks are still cheap. Later, there’s a booty contest.

If you look at the clubs that have had a history of problems, including Remington’s and Intensity, you’ll find these specials and the so-called “bad element” lapping it up.
Some have said that a thugged-out black crowd has traveled from Remington’s to Intensity (both now closed) to Traffic.

Wrong.

Remington’s and Intensity both had a diverse crowd in terms of race, age and backgrounds. The clubs had problems not because of their customers’ race, but because of customers’ mentality, which goes back to attracting crowds via cheap beer and butt cheeks.

The dress code will help but is largely superficial. The club can better help itself by hiring more security, patting down patrons for weapons on weekend nights and allowing more time to get people out at closing time. There have been three knife incidents. Three. Pat ’em down. It’s common sense.

OK, so then the thugs wait outside, right? Sure. That’s why we need a stronger police presence on foot. I think the city is afraid of making downtown look stodgy, but that’s the wrong attitude. Ever been to Beale Street in Memphis? It’s crawling with cops, but they’re not tapping nightsticks on their palms. They have an ambassadorial attitude. If things go down, police are right there.

Some clubgoers were pleased when city council pulled cops off the DWI police unit downtown. While I believe the DWI situation was too strict, we need more cops, not fewer, downtown as the district’s growing pains continue. But we need them on foot. Their mission is evolving, not ending.
Why not place a uniformed officer inside the club? A presence is a deterrent.

Also, patrons shouldn’t be allowed to loiter on the sidewalk at closing time.

As for the city pulling out all the stops to close Traffic, that is absolute bunk. I’ve seen fights inside and outside other clubs and bars. It happens everywhere, but most incidents are isolated.

The difference here is the sheer number of people involved.
This isn’t to be taken lightly. We all want to see downtown thrive, but for the government to step in and close a viable business is wrong. Plus it shows a lack of foresight. Closing the clubs mean thugs will move elsewhere.

The city, the police, the club and its patrons should seek answers to this problem as a group.

Fighting with each other isn’t going to stop the fighting on the streets.

Contact columnist Michael Brothers at 836-1210 or at mbrothers@news-leader.com.