Chris McGuinness called a little while ago, and he's decided to set up a tent in the Dodie's Seafood Cafe parking lot after all. There's even going to be live music courtesy the Donavan Foy Band; downbeat's at 7 p.m. sharp. Because danged if the longtime Lower Greenville restaurant owner's going to let a few bad crawfish ruin his Fat Tuesday.
"So the guys came this morning and put up the tent," McGuinness says. "It's already heated, and the restaurant's already packed." But McGuinness makes it very clear: He only decided to carry on with the Mardi Gras shindig after first speaking with Deputy Chief Vincent Golbeck.
As it turns out, the chief didn't want to see the plug pulled. He's a fan of McGuinness's and Dodie's -- calls it a "responsible" neighbor on a street full of troublemakers, by which he means the myriad bars masquerading as restaurants. And so he spoke with McGuinness and gave his blessing, with the caveat that, yes, if neighbors start complaining about the noise, there may indeed be a request to move the party inside.
"That's the tough part about that neighborhood: trying to find the right balance between economic development and maintaining the peace," Golbeck tells Unfair Park. "We, as a city, always get caught in the middle, and it's unfortunate, but we try to make reasonable decisions. ... The tolerance level is so low because of what the neighbors have to deal with on a Friday and Saturday night, and we can empathize.
"The argument 'They knew what they were dealing with when they moved here' doesn't hold water. There are other restaurants, not like Dodie's, that are operating as bars, and we're looking at processes where maybe we can tighten that up and hold them accountable. Dodie's is one of the responsible businesses down there, and we don't want to unfairly affect his business. ... We told him, 'Put the tent up. You've gone beyond what the neighborhood expected.'"
Golbeck and I spoke for a long time about Lower Greenville; sounds like the man's had enough of "the bad actors." He repeated something Angela Hunt told Unfair Park yesterday: Hunt and Pauline Medrano are indeed working with the City Attorney's Office to draft an ordinance that would allow the city to crack down on restaurants operating as bars, not to mention other "troublemakers." He's not specific -- there's work to be done -- but he does offer this:
"The council is looking at solutions," he says. "They looked at something years ago, and they couldn't get a consensus, but the time is now. Hunt and Medrano's solution could be workable: It gives us and the community the opportunity to do something about this problem. And if this goes forward, when the specific use permits come for renewal, if you've been a bad neighbor you'll have 15 neighbors and the DPD saying, 'We recommend it's not approved.' It gives us a chance to hold these businesses accountable."