Where There Isn't a Will ...
It's sad to read Anastasia Pantsios' piece about the financial plight of the Beachland Ballroom and its Waterloo Road neighborhood ["The Beachland's Waterloo," August 17, 2011].
Having watched Cleveland and Cuyahoga County's largess for entrepreneurs and developers for decades, I've seen tens of millions — make that hundreds of millions of dollars — in subsidies go to private businesses in tax abatements, outright gifts from tax revenues, and low-interest loans at zero interest for up to 20 years (like free money). There are plenty of opportunities for the city to save this neighborhood. Only the will is absent.
The Beer Analogy
Cleveland once had a thriving brewing industry, employing hundreds of Clevelanders and anchoring neighborhoods. Enter the local and state politico, with his blind-ass tax policies, idiotic regulations, and sticky fingers, and bingo: Yet another local industry is DOA. Will those clowns at city hall ever get it? After living 61 years here, I am not even cautiously optimistic anymore.
Keep the Neighborhood Cool
I used to play piano for a band called the Push Stars. My first-ever stop in Cleveland was at the Beachland Ballroom.
In four years of touring, I played hundreds of shows — but I remember the Beachland. I remember meeting the owners, and I remember getting a home-cooked meal on an eight-week road trip of Motel 6's and Cracker Barrels. I would imagine many touring musicians past and present share that memory.
The future of our cities is based in no small part on locally owned businesses that cater to the young, creative professionals who frequent the restaurants, shops, and venues that create vibrant streets and urban cores seven nights a week.
We all understand the financial constraints and crises hitting all of our municipalities, but when situations like this arise, cities need to work with their small businesses to ensure that they stay open. All cities need to start looking at live music venues as drivers of economic development.
Places like the Beachland and the Grog Shop are not just businesses. They make neighborhoods and cities cool.