Jim Jenkins

Boomers going bust together

Patrons drink on the front sidewalk patio at The Anchor Bar on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh.
Patrons drink on the front sidewalk patio at The Anchor Bar on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh. jhknight@newsobserver.com

It’s the issue that’s managed to accomplish something that rarely happens during a Raleigh City Council campaign, namely to make it lively. The anger of some downtown bar owners over a council action to curb, slightly, serving hours on sidewalks because of rowdy behavior, trash, vomit on the sidewalks and noise has stirred the young patrons of those establishments.

They’ve been pushed along the way, of course, by the bar owners, invoking the importance of maintaining the “vibrancy” of downtown revitalization, though for the owners, of course, it’s all about making more money thanks to the extra space they gain by using public sidewalks. And the notion that downtown Raleigh, with its Fayetteville Street, convention center, performing arts halls, art galleries, IBMA festival and arts extravaganzas, will fold unless millennials can get a Budweiser on the sidewalk is just silly.

They’ve even renamed the sidewalks “patios,” as if everybody was sitting in someone’s backyard in North Hills on a mellow Saturday night listening to Gordon Lightfoot while Pops was grilling his famous ribs on the Weber.

These aren’t patios; they’re sidewalks, and the sidewalks belong to Raleigh citizens.

Now, when your correspondent noted this a couple of weeks ago in this space, those who responded by email, many of them downtown residents, were pretty much in agreement. But the online responses, most clearly from younger folks, were virtually unanimous in wanting to put yours truly and all other Baby Boomers on the Old 97 and watch it jump the tracks. Mercy.

My favorite was from the kid who reckoned, “Baby Boomers. The worst generation ever. Selfish, selfish, selfish.” The hashtag was “#DieAlready.”

Another referred to “those wild and crazy 20 & 30 somethings that rebuilt a downtown that didn’t exist 10 years ago.”

Then there was the guy who called me a name and said that “old people are oblivious and complain too much.”

And another: “Anyway, let people have fun, the downtown party get bigger, and get yourself to bed earlier.”

There were lots more along those lines. For purposes only of history, it was former Mayor Charles Meeker and a couple of generations of city council members and a lot of long-time residents who “rebuilt a downtown that didn’t exist 10 years ago,” so let’s get that straight, at least.

And I am sorry that I appear to have set up my fellow Baby Boomers as targets for thirsty millennials. Take care friends, and don’t wear your Peter, Paul & Mary t-shirts in public. Might want to leave the Rolling Stones shirts at home, too. (Those guys, like us, aren’t getting any millennialer.)

The bar owners are supporting council members who backed longer hours, notably incumbents Bonner Gaylord and Mary-Ann Baldwin, and candidates such as Ashton Smith. That’s fine, by the way. They’re entitled to make their point and get the pols on their side.

The problem is, like some of those late-night patrons leaving lunch on the sidewalk and getting rowdy, the bar owners who are most loudly fighting rules that seem perfectly reasonable to those who aren’t their patrons are going too far.

Take their slogan, or one of them: “Keep Raleigh Vibrant,” which they intone with the emotion of “Remember the Alamo.” Really? For the Capital City to stay “vibrant” we’ve got to offer up a draft IPA on the sidewalk at 1:45 a.m.?

One candidate, who’ll remain anonymous because I don’t want him or her to get put under that “#DieAlready” hashtag, added another argument for curbing hours: When the bars close, at least some of those patrons get in their cars.

Makes me kind of glad I’m taking the advice of at least one of my online correspondents, and getting to bed earlier.

Jenkins: 919-829-4513 or jjenkins@newsobserver.com