July 14, 2009
Differing visions raise questions about Sixth Street club
Alderman Jim Kaplan took a minute out of the Public Safety and Licensing Committee Monday night 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."
The advice came while the committee reviewed four police reports, all for fights, in or near the club in the last six months. A police officer was injured in one of the incidents after a private security officer responding to the fight forget to put his car in park and it rolled into the officer.
Committee members essentially told 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, who agreed to make changes to please the committee, offered a different vision for Sixth Street. He pointed to Brady Street in Milwaukee where night clubs, stores and condos coexist late into the night.
"That's my idea coming from Milwaukee," said Holmes, who envisioned people shopping in clothing stores until 10 at night and then stopping at clubs with live music throughout Downtown.
But Kaplan shared two letters from city residents who offered a different vision for Sixth Street. They suggested small, artisan shops on the street could prosper, but out-of-town business owners may be scared off by a rowdy night club.
Kaplan added that he warned the council about allowing a former furniture store - the building's last tenant - become a club. "I don't want to say, 'I told you so,'" he said.
Holmes, who appeared at the hearing with his attorney, agreed to install additional digital cameras and work on security. He also noted that he's now closing early at 1:30 a.m. (as opposed to 2:45 a.m.), which has helped control crowds.
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 was 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.
"As other establishments broke off, the African-American community turned out," Holmes said. "We saw the change."
Park 6 charges a $5 cover on Saturday nights, including $10 for anyone who leaves and wants to come back in. It's also turned down large parties - and thousands of dollars in business - because it was concerned about the crowd, Holmes said.
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.
Holmes said the original person he was working with to start the restaurant left. He now has a new partner, has installed all of the needed kitchen equipment and should be up and running by next Friday.
Following the meeting, which ended with a deal that Holmes would work with police and the city attorney's office on a written agreement, a Park 6 supporter told Holmes he may need to re-examine his approach to the bar.
"You're from Milwaukee," she said. "This isn't Milwaukee."