Thursday, January 29, 2004

Downtown goes to Buckhead ... so Buckhead goes Downtown

There was a story in the AJC this morning about the city of Atlanta's plan to bring Buckhead bars to Underground Atlanta. Turns out there's a loophole in the new closing-time (2:30 last call, 3:00 close) that allows bars at Underground to serve until 4:00 a.m., and now the city has a grand plan to make Underground the central "entertainment district."

The story says there are at least 5 Buckhead bars which have signed up to either move to or open new locations at Underground. Those are Mako's, Masquerade, Tongue & Groove, Loca Luna and Black Bear Tavern.

According to the story, "Underground management invited those clubs because they have reputations for being well-run establishments that do not have histories of attracting crime, city officials said."

It goes on: "Buckhead's troubles were in part associated with hip-hop clubs. So far no hip-hop clubs are included in Underground's new lineup. But [Councilman] Willis said he is courting reputable hip-hop club operators."

OK, let me get this straight. Buckhead, Atlanta's most affluent neighborhood, has a problem with out-of-control hip-hop clubs and their non-Buckhead patrons (the shooter and his two victims in the Club Chaos incident last year were all from New York).

And Downtown, which - by definition - should appeal to the "urban" types, is trying to attract bar patrons.

So the solution is to get the "white" clubs in Buckhead to open locations at Underground and let the hip-hop clubs which city officials say they don't want at Underground to remain open in Buckhead?

Alrighty.

The AJC piece goes on to say that Underground makes a perfect "entertainment district" because entry to the indoor complex can be easily controlled, reducing the chance of unmanageable crowds, and that Downtown's "maze of one-way streets should deter the cruising traffic that has plagued Buckhead on weekend nights."

Again, the uncontrolled crowds and cruising comes from the hip-hop clubs, not the kinds of places the city has signed to open at Underground.

What, exactly, is the city's end game here? Obviously, they want Underground to become popular, because the city owns the place. And it's obvious that they want to keep out the kind of establishments that have ruined Buckhead (and as landlord, the city has that ability).

If their plan works, Underground will become a thriving, safe party district full of only "reputable" clubs. But what about Buckhead? The places like Chaos (and their clientele) aren't welcome at Underground, but they apparently can stay in Buckhead. And if Tongue & Groove's Underground location is a big hit, might not the club cut its losses in Buckhead and close shop there? That would open up one more space for a hip-hop club, bringing even more crowds and cruising, and helping chase out other "reputable" clubs. Rinse, repeat ... and what does Buckhead look like in 10 years?

It seems like a huge conflict of interest when the city has a financial stake in Underground and appears to be favoring its own bottom line over the safety and quality of life for Buckhead residents.

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