You don’t have to be a cop, a merchant, an investor, a tourist — or Bill Cosby — to find fault with what’s been happening of late in Ybor City. You simply have to possess a modicum of common sense. And that would tell you that “Club Bling,” a teen dance club at 1910 E. Seventh Ave. that is open until 1:00 a.m. on weekends, makes about as much sense as cock fights in Hyde Park.
Ybor City is, in addition to Tampa’s historical soul, the area’s entertainment district. Especially Seventh Avenue, the wet-zone capital of Hillsborough County.
It can be argued that too many high-decibel gin mills catering to too many young adults are incompatible with an older, more affluent demographic looking for anything but that. It can also be argued that Ybor’s ultimate viability depends on accommodating both.
What can’t be argued, however, is that adding a teen club to such an incongruous mix will only make matters worse. Worse in that something very bad will ultimately happen to one of those teens (ages 13-18 and younger) or to a luckless, adult visitor who runs afoul of young marauders. And worse in that Ybor can ill afford any more image hits that would further discourage visits by those not interested in piercings, tattoos or two-for-one drink coupons at Club Cacophony.
Defying credulity — as well as a semblance of sense — was the rationale of Club Bling owner Richard Boby. To Boby, the owner of something called Sky High Records, he is simply offering these teens a “safe haven.”
So he chose the night club and bar scene of Ybor? What about this fiasco makes any sense at all? Were there no open-mike, talent-show opportunities along the Dale Mabry or Adamo Drive strips? Nothing available in Drew Park?
He said he couldn’t do anything about the kids, presumably the real “wilding” element, outside Club Bling. Of course he could. Call it the light-and-moth phenomenon. He can pull the plug. It would send the blameless to a safer place and garden variety predators somewhere other than the city’s historic entertainment district. And it would obviate the need for other Ybor businesses to increase their security costs to deter the terrorizing of patrons.
The solution is obviously two-fold.
First and most fundamental, parents need to act the part. Police shouldn’t be their proxies. What’s the matter with them? But lots of luck waiting for the religion of socially responsible parenting to manifest itself. It’s more likely that Godot will appear at Coyote Ugly.
Second, a curfew is a must — protestations of the ACLU notwithstanding. Start with a limited one in Ybor, until the Florida Supreme Court finally makes a determination on Tampa’s citywide, youth curfew that was ruled unconstitutional by the 2nd District Court of Appeal in 2002.
A couple of other points. This is not a generation-gap issue. Would that it were. It’s about adults outsourcing their kids to Club Bling. It’s about being irresponsible; it’s about dereliction of duty.
And neither should this be a racial issue, although Boby thinks otherwise. He said, according to a Tampa Tribune account, that police and club owners who complain were, in effect, discriminating against the Blingers because they were largely black.
The Pied Piper of Pique needs to discard that racial lens. You can bet that police and club owners would be no less alarmed — and up in arms — if it were marauding young Anglos or Hispanics who were threatening anyone in their way. In fact, in such a scenario the crackdown, arguably, would be even more severe — in the absence of any potential race-card leverage.
Finally, this is about the unique place that is Ybor. It has survived cigar-industry automation and urban renewal. It is struggling to survive recent makeovers.
It is what it is — not what it was. But it doesn’t have to be this. Ybor is still special and it deserves better. Much better.