Sunday, September 23, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: How to get trendy, besotted SoHo strip to clean up its act

You don't need to be a cultural anthropologist to figure out this equation — the number of bars existing in any one location will eventually lead to a direct correlation of increased numbers of drunk people getting either: A) mugged, B) shot, C) arrested, D) all of the above, E) Duh.

It has been axiomatic ever since Man first discovered the charms of hooch that not very much good happens after say, oh, midnight. And certainly by a booze-filled 3 a.m. we have entered a stratosphere of stupid.

All cities like to promote themselves as a hip, trendy, fashionable place for young people to come and frolic, even if that translates to being face down in a gutter reeking of vomit and stale beer. How chic.

Tampa is certainly no different. And for years the place to go to see and be seen and probably have your head handed to you in the dead of night was the city's famous Ybor City, a collection of saloons catering to the up and coming future Betty Ford Clinic patient for decades.

But nothing stays the same forever and now it appears Tampa's SoHo district has become the hot spot for late night besotted revery. As the Tampa Bay Times' Anastasia Dawson and Christopher O'Donnell reported, SoHo has seen a spate of violent assaults, robberies and a drive-by shooting death in recent months.

Indeed, the neighborhood has experienced about 100 reports of violent crime a year, including at least 21 cases where someone has been brutally assaulted, or mugged.

Oh, we're having way big fun now.

Police patrols have been increased. Local bars have studied ways to improve lighting. And there has been a push to reduce drink specials that only exacerbate the number of Otis-like town drunks. That's all very nice.

But the harsh reality is when you have thousands of mostly very young people bar-hopping up and down South Howard Avenue well into the wee hours of the morning getting completely pie-eyed, some very sleazy things are going to happen.

I am not a prude. I started drinking and smoking while in the Boy Scouts, for crying out loud. It's a pity they didn't hand out merit badges for hangovers. I could have been the Eagle Scout of scotch. But I also know one of the very few skills I actually possess is knowing how to drink. I'm good at it. While other fathers played catch with their sons, my dad taught me how to make the perfect martini.

And after decades of appreciating the musical allure of clinking ice cubes, I believe I have a certain expert standing on evaluating the SoHo debauchery problem.

First, the youthful habitues of SoHo have absolutely no clue how to drink. Rather, they confuse slurping down as much liquor as possible with the sole purpose of getting as plastered as possible with a perfectly enjoyable way to spend the evening. They are idiots with credit cards. And there are plenty of SoHo establishments that are more than willing to exploit all the amateur night partiers.

Look at it this way. If you can't get suitably, uh, mellow by midnight you obviously have no business imbibing an adult beverage.

Second, any establishment that promotes binge drinking events that is called stuff like "Gasparilla Booty Bash," or "The Animal Party," probably isn't all that interested in trying to contribute to a sense of social order in SoHo.

Third, if a watering hole wants to serve insane libations like Lemon Drop shots, the customer and at least two witnesses should have to sign a document that says: "I fully understand that no good will come of this."

What's the solution? There is none as long as SoHo wants to cater to stupid people. But there is a start.

City Council could pass an ordinance that stipulates if, say, six violent acts over any three- month period can be directly linked to irresponsible bar owners who enable immature patrons to get so loaded they are a danger to themselves or others, they must close their doors three hours early.

How fast do you think SoHo would clean up its act?

About the time it takes to call 911?

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