Saturday, August 22, 2009

Is the City Out to Close Down Black Bars?

What happens when the City of Racine rushes to close down Black entertainment facilities to make more liquor licenses available to other establishments? In Racine, the African American community has moved to new core entertainment spots outside the inner city and into unwelcoming areas of town.

Most notable is Park 6, located on the corner of the Sixth Street and Park Avenue area, where large groups of young African American partygoers are attracted on the weekend.
Early on the club drew a very diverse audience of primarily Whites. To my amazement, the club now caters to a mostly African-American clientele. A mix that has other merchants in the near-by area upset.

In a recent meeting of the Public Safety and Licensing Committee, Alderman Jim Kaplan took a minute out of the meeting to give some business advice to the operator of Park 6 club on Sixth Street.
"Stop advertising," he told Thomas Holmes, who was called before the committee for complaints about his club. "It's having a negative impact on your business." Is Kaplan saying that the minority who frequent Park 6 is a negative impact to Mr Holmes or the downtown area?

Committee members seem to suggest to Holmes his club was too successful and he may want to consider moving out of its building at Sixth Street and Park Avenue. The club is drawing large crowds late on Friday and Saturday nights.

"It seems like you're a victim of your own success," said Alderman Aron Wisneski, chairman of the committee.
Holmes said a change in the bar's crowd over the last four months has increased the security challenges. The first six months his place was open it had a predominantly white crowd. But in recent months the crowd became predominantly African-American, Holmes said. He attributed the change to other bars closing and their patrons looking for a new place to hangout.
Wisneski also asked Holmes about food served in the bar. The original agreement with the city called for a restaurant, but Park 6 doesn't serve food.

Now according to a source, efforts are being developed by the City to close him down because he has not yet opened a full kitchen.
Holmes told the committee in July that the original person he was working with to start the restaurant left. He now has a new partner and has installed all of the necessary kitchen equipment, and should be up and running by next Friday.

Alderman Mike Shields, who is also the head of the local branch of the NAACP, and members of the African American Tavern Group accused the City Council's Public Safety and Licensing Committee of treating minority-owned bars unfairly.
"The way they drill people of color is a problem with me," Shields said in the hallway during the committee meeting.

The Tavern Group says that black owners are asked to spend enormous amounts of money for security officers, mounted cameras, as well as closing early which causes a loss in income. “They are essentially micro managing us out of business,” said one owner.
Cash Money Bar, located on the corner of 9th and Memorial Drive said that he was forced out of business by the committee requirements. He would have had to install a security camera system, and close early. Both suggestions were too costly and he was forced to return his Class “B” Liquor Licensing.

Nevertheless, members of the tavern group say that white clubs in Racine have had some of the same problems, but have not been subject to the same requirements. “There have been several shootings at White taverns up and down Main Street, but none have had to put in security systems in order to keep their doors open,” said one group member.

Local African-American club owners want answers, and rightfully so. They feel that the committee should take the politics out of the granting of licensing and judge each business according to their operations.

It has only been in recent years that city aldermen have flexed their political muscles by going after minority owned establishments. An example is how the Public Safety and Licensing Committee arbitrarily require certain taverns to have conditions in order to operate, while not applying these requirements across the board.

One local owner, who does not want to identified his business, said that in the committee demands for 18 months that his lounge have unform police officers, close early and maintain his $10,000 security system. He believes the demands cost him over $150,000 in lost revenue.
Some owners have said that the actions of the committee boarder on a form of extortion of Black bars. “Their actions are loaded with gimmicks to close us down. You can note that 80% of African American bars have been closed since the late 1980’s.
What do you think?

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