Sunday, October 08, 2006

Behind the Times

The old saw of Bill Buckley's, that he'd rather be governed by the first hundred names in the New Haven phone book than by the faculty of Yale University can now be updated. Instead of the Yale, however, we now can substitute the out-of-touch editorialists at the NY Times who, in today's opinion piece on the SLA's license moratorium, managed to totally mischaracterize the entire nightlife issue.

This is not out of character for the paper when it comes to neighborhood businesses. A little over a decade ago, the Times engaged in a campaign against independent supermarkets that called these immigrant owned stores high priced and dirty "bodegas." All without ever having the decency to send reporters out to actually report on the real life neighborhood activity; reporting that would have shown that these store owners had invested tens of millions of dollars to buy, refurbish and re-inventory units that had been abandoned by the national chains.

The Times, however, was in the thrall of self-described food advocates who downplayed and denigrated the huge success story of minority-owned stores bringing needed economic activity to areas that had been abandoned. And so it is now with nightlife. And now the same editorial writer, unchastened by his own hubris, is at it again, this time with an even greater breathtaking ignorance.

The Times piece, written after just a cursory discussion with NYNA's Rob Bookman, doesn't at any time mention that this is a vital industry for the economic health and commercial reputation of New York. It talks about the 500 foot law with an almost willful ignorance of that measures application and implementation over the past decade.

The editorial treats this 500 feet as if it were not only a defensible public policy for a city as dense as New York, but as if it were somehow sacrosanct. Here's the money quote: "Until recently, however, the state liquor authority was routinely issuing licenses anyway, under an exception to the law that is supposed to apply only in special cases." Does the Times realize what would happen in this town if the 500 foot rule was applied literally?

The editorial feeds into the notion that these are "troubled times" for the nightlife business. Why? Because of two incidents among 65 million customer transactions? It goes on to imply that clubowners are snubbing their noses at the police, saying that the NYPD would get more "cooperation" if the city controlled enforcement, instead of acknowledging that the clubs themselves are the ones that have been crying out for more police protection.

Finally the paper, unwilling to rest its case on all of the aforementioned misrepresentation, takes a position, that if followed to its inevitable conclusion would lead to the end of nightlife as we know it in this city. It states: "Finally, the authority should devise a strategy for cutting back the number of licenses in areas that are deemed to be very saturated."

There's a a reason that the Times is hemorrhaging readership, the paper is simply and completely out of touch with the people and the pulse of this city. Today's "Improving the Quality of Nightlife" editorial proves the point and is reminiscent of the Vietnam era slogan: "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."