Thursday, July 22, 2010

Discriminate or Else

In the past week or so I have talked to numerous "deciders" of the fate of Park 6 owner Thomas Holmes and his liquor license. I will concede that the city has a very tricky problem on their hands. Among the problems is that Holmes himself has not been accused of any violations of liquor or other laws. Even so, Holmes may lose his liquor license because of problems that his customers are causing in and around the bar. Almost without fail, the "deciders" note that Holmes is literally inviting trouble to his bar and the area via his marketing efforts, and that this is enough of a reason to revoke his license. Ultimately though, it is not who you market to that matters but who shows up, and it is rather obvious that the "deciders" are not altogether thrilled with Holmes' clientele. For the record, the "deciders" have a point here, as Park 6 customers are a drain on the city's police resources. Here is why I have a problem with some of the "deciders": they don't like Holmes' customers but they won't publicly define and identify the people they consider problematic. The reason is rather obvious because the problematic customers (as well as the benign ones) are virtually all black. If the city were to create an ordinance wherein they attempted to identify and define the type of people that they don't want in or around Racine bars, well, we all know that this would soon be national news and the City of Racine would be slapped with a discrimination lawsuit by the federal government. So instead the city is using liquor license leverage to hand the problem over to the bar owners. Instead of having an official city policy that requires bars to refuse "problematic/often black" customers, the city has a wink wink nudge nudge policy that requires bars to discriminate or lose their license. If I were Holmes, I would argue that the city has created a de facto policy that requires bar owners to discriminate against "problematic" customers, many or all of whom are black. The city is putting bar owners in an impossible position. If they refuse to serve a thuggish looking black person, they risk getting sued. If they serve thuggish looking people and said thugs cause problems, they risk losing their liquor license.

A better approach in my view would be to partner with bars in fighting crime. Don't penalize bars for the crimes committed by customers. Crack down on people who commit crimes, not on those that serve them. And lastly, recognize that there is no utopian solution to this problem. If you close down one bar, the people causing problems will simply move on and cause problems at the next one.


Anonymous said...


Please don't fall into the racial rhetoric that Ken Lumpkin, Keith Fair and Craig Oliver keep spewing. Even Thomas Holmes has been quoted as saying this is not a race issue.

The City has compiled a lengthy report to validate the due process. Thomas has broken the law. Serving minors is against the law, right??? You should attend the hearing next week so you are properly informed.

Also, let's not forget that when Park 6 opened, everyone was told that this was going to be a Salsa Supper Club. Don't think we ever got there either.

Denis Navratil said...

Anon, I gave a comprehensive argument here that you dismissed as racial rhetoric. Why not take on the substance of my argument?

Yes, serving minors is against the law and I have said many times in the past that people who break laws should be held accountable. In the last week or so I have heard, off the record, that a few minors were served at Park 6. If so, he should be fined for that or otherwise penalized to the extent that other lawbreakers have been. I recall that the owner of City Haul had a whole slew of minors in his place and that he got little more than a slap on the wrist.

I have no doubt that Holmes or anyone else seeking a liquor license has told the council what they wanted to hear. This is why they all tell the council that they won't be playing rap or hip hop music. Is rap or hip hop illegal? No, not exactly, but try opening a rap music club and see if you get a license. It is all part of a de facto city policy that is discriminatory against people the city thinks may cause trouble (and they may).

Is this all racial rhetoric? I will leave that for others to decide. I just call it as I see it.

Oh, for the record, I agree that there are problems in and around Park 6 and I agree that something must be done. I just think the answer is not to shut down the clubs (unless club owner breaks the law) but to focus on the miscreants who are causing problems in and around the bar. In other words, we may well agree on the nature of the problem but we have different views on potential solutions. I will try to attend the meeting next week.

Anonymous said...

it would make sense to disclose who these proverbial "deciders" are.

Denis Navratil said...

Not really anon. I have many conversations with people and it is not always assumed by them to be on the record. As such, I think it would be unfair to out them without permission. If you want me to be more specific, by "deciders" I mean people who have a considerable impact on city policy.

Anonymous said...

When the city closes down the Blind Alligator it is not behaving in a racially motivated manner. When it holds a hearing for Park 6 it is.

I think the city is responding to violence and bad behavior. Period.

The difference between these two bars is their clientele, but they both are disrupting the neighborhood and creating a unsafe atmosphere.

Denis Navratil said...

Anon says "I think the city is responding to violence and bad behavior. Period."

If only that were true. But it is not. If the city were responding only to bad behavior, they would be rounding up the clowns who are blocking traffic, creating a nuisance, shooting people etc... Instead, they are for the most part allowing them to control the streets. Meanwhile, the city responds by closing down bars owned by people not behaving violently.