By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Penn says that since they close at midnight the SUP won't apply to Good Records, but he's still worried the PD will hurt sales. "I don't understand why the city doesn't just deal with the troublemakers," he says. "Because even if we only lose a few bars, there won't be much left down here to draw people to the area. Had I known that this would be happening, I don't know that we would have moved the store here."
"I think, in the end, it will be great for the area," Penn adds. "But in the meantime, if it's a ghost town, then we'll have to re-evaluate where we're going to do business, because I need things to be happening around me to attract business."
After initially supporting an SUP, long-time neighborhood activist Avi Adelman has become the PD's most vocal critic. Like others, he's concerned that the PD will prevent new businesses from coming into the area. As a board member of the Belmont Neighborhood Association, he abstained from voting when the association's board lent its support to the plan. And the Greenville Avenue Restaurant Association, which employs him as general manager, has also come out against the proposed plan.
People on the street have been scratching their heads about Adelman's about-face, trying to discern his motives; other neighborhood associations are even spreading the word that he's actually helping the bad bars. "Some people are badmouthing me, saying Avi's a turncoat—he's now pro bad bars," Adelman says. "I haven't switched sides. I have come out against the proposal that will supposedly close the bad bars because it will kill the restaurants. I work for the restaurants...There's no secret there."
Adelman points out that he's one of the few people who actually walks the streets at night and makes it a point to get to know the businesses, bar managers and owners, developing a level of rapport and trust. "Am I helping Neil [of Service Bar] out with ideas, yeah," Adelman says. "He calls me up and says, 'How do we do this?' or 'What's the answer to this?' and he knows that he can call Avi and get the answer without paying $250 or $500 an hour."
So Adelman suggested that Ludwig form the Lowest Lower Greenville Avenue Business Association. "I'm not ashamed to say that I'm helping them out," he says. "I think there's no reason for them not to be organized. Start organizing, I'd tell that to anybody that asks me my advice when I agree with them, and I agree with these guys that there are some legal issues that need to be resolved. So is that turncoating? No."
Mounted behind the counter at Greenville Avenue Pizza Company, to the left of the pizza ovens, is a large wood-framed mirror. Stuck to the mirror are four small strips of black tape, which mark the passing of four pizza places that have opened and closed since the brothers opened their spot. The last thing Chris Cook wants to do is to stick another black strip on the mirror marking the demise of his restaurant.
Although he says he is a"glass half-full kind of guy," in recent weeks, he and his brother have had some serious conversations about what's referred to on the streets as the "tumbleweeds scenario." He's not worried about getting a special use permit. The restaurant is known as a good neighbor. But by closing the bad bars before other new businesses arrive, he's concerned the SUP might inadvertently create more empty spaces on Lowest Greenville than it already has. In early September, more than half a dozen prime locations sat empty.
"It's so hard to predict what's going to happen down here, and at least people are being proactive," Cook says. "But what's going to happen to the businesses in the meantime, while we wait for the improvements to the street and sidewalk?"
Hunt and Medrano have said that the plans for the new streetscape will commence as soon as the PD is passed. But that could take months. First, there will be a public hearing in front of the City Plan Commission, and then a second public hearing in front of the city council. No dates have been set. And, though Hunt says it's not "over until the fat lady sings," she's optimistic that with the support of all six of the affected neighborhood associations, the PD will pass.
Though Cook feels less certain about the merits of the PD than Hunt, they share the same sense of urgency about Lowest Greenville. "The area's a landmark—the whole street—and it would be a shame to see it all wither up and go away," he says. "The area's just got to come back...It just has to."