Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lynn Needs Bars. No, really.

This post is in response to an Item article from April 9, 2013.

On March 26, the online magazine, Slate, ran an article provocatively titled, "Your Neighborhood Needs More Bars," one of its main points being that they provide a boost to and attract small businesses.

Before I go further, understand that I fully recognize Lynn’s difficult history with watering holes and can empathize with those who suffered from out-of-control establishments, either as neighbors in close proximity or as Lynners suffering the reputation they brought the city. Bars, especially bars as venues, can also be a very good thing.

The Bowery had CBGB’s, Kenmore Square had the Rat, D.C. has the 9:30 club, Athens has the 40 Watt, Hoboken has Maxwell’s, and I can go on. None of these places were fancy or in the best parts of town. The floors were sometimes sticky and the bathrooms could be a turnoff, but they were anchors in their neighborhood’s revivals. I speak with some experience, because I have been in every one of those places. Every one of those places also was or is in an area that is full of positive late night activity and new daytime businesses, now.

The Sand Bar is not one of Lynn’s difficult establishments. To the best of my knowledge, and I attend the License Commission hearings, it’s relatively trouble free. It also offers a regular schedule of live music in the downtown and adjacent to the Arts & Culture district. (Its bands aren’t always to my taste – too many covers, too much of a 90’s jock-rock sound, but that’s irrelevant to my argument.)

I have never seen a neighborhood revive without an active music scene, an arts scene, and yes, a bar scene – or scenes for that matter. It does take variety. I believe the Sand Bar has a positive role to play in downtown Lynn, and who knows, as the area changes, it just may begin to host more original acts. Sure, it’s small. It should be. We have the Lynn Auditorium for really big acts.

I’ve lived in the downtown a number of years, now, and it’s not new news that my neighbors and I have been putting in hard work building community, creating new scenes, and hoping to attract new businesses. It’s my opinion that you have to leave nightlife, and (gulp) bars, in the picture. Show me an urban arts district without them. I even know a non-profit arts organization, AS220 in Providence, that has a bar inside it and leases space in another one of its buildings to a bar/restaurant. And you know what else is inside AS220? An art gallery that doubles as a venue for original live music.

Let me also point out that I am in favor of the plans for new housing and retail on that stretch of Washington, but not at the expense of a positive contributor who has worked hard to build up his business. Measures can be put in place so sound does not travel to the residences easily. Special walls and dividers can be built, for example, without completely reinventing the acoustical wheel. Family-sized units can be placed further from Sand Bar and Frans, as well.

We want to reduce crime, prostitution, and the perception of blight we have that’s a bit overblown, but that will only happen when we have people walking the streets at night engaged in positive activities.

Where will our city's new young energy go at night without bars? Salem? It’s already happening, and it amounts to a great loss of economic opportunity in Lynn, not just for the bars themselves, but for all kinds of businesses.

Note the absence of a musical video on the bottom of this post. It will come back when it gets the credit it deserves for its role in urban revival. Go out and see a live original band, even if you have to do it outside of Lynn on most nights.

Here's a list of some Lynn venues that sometimes have original acts. Support them for it.

Arts After Hours Backyard Bashes (always original acts, but a few times a year)
Tatiana's, 70 Market Street
Sand Bar, 714 Washington Street
O'Brien's, 829 Boston Street
Buchanan's at the intersection of Eastern & Western Ave's
Walnut Street Cafe, 157 Walnut Street (lots of original, mostly acoustic)