Citizen Wausau

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Tattling as Business Model

by on October 26th, 2009

Today, I read in the Wausau Daily Herald that the nightclub, Break-A-Way, has gone to the police for help. They need the police to help them weed out the bad patrons, and they want to WORK WITH the police to get this done. I was shocked, appalled, and it made me realize I have a different world view of this troubling incident.

First off, a night club is by its nature not a family place. We do not go out at 11:30 at night to find wholesome fun. At 11:30 at night, in a bar, chances are the world is pursuing something a bit illicit, whether it’s love, drink, or something worse like trouble. But, it is not a library or a church social–it is a night club.

Secondly, I think this place is a dump. Years ago a friend was the bouncer there, and managed to get STABBED. I have to admit that he was a bad bouncer. But, knowing this is a place where someone would consider pulling a knife out and stabbing someone, what’s even more telling is that person HAD a knife to stab someone with. I was a bouncer for a long time, and someone only brought a knife to the bar once, and he had to get thrown out, then GO GET it, bring it back, and threaten me with it (and for the record we did not call the police).

Is it right to get rid of your manager? Sure. Is it right to blame him? Sure. Did you know he ended up down the road at IC Willy’s? Sure enough. Is this going to be the new place to go to for trouble? Does trouble follow this fellow? We shall see. Is it right to do all of this publicly in the media? Well, I am guessing that at some point a lawyer and a judge might decide, but we shall see how that goes as well.

But, is it right to go to the police for your troubles if your business in many ways facilitates drunk driving or other illicit behavior? I don’t think so. I think the bar owner, who by all accounts is a rather absent bar owner, could easily remedy this by bringing in a good doorman, some bartenders with some strength, paying them a bigger wage so they do not have to be so dependant on tips, and go from there.

Would you want to go to a place where you have to worry that the owner is in direct communication with the police? Sure, if you aren’t doing something wrong, then of course you have nothing to worry about. I think though that this gets to a larger issue. With the invasive nature of the police in small communities like this, does it lead to larger issues? Should we need to have them in our bars, in our Starbucks, in the Wal-Mart parking lot, or the library? Should we let them tap into the security camera feed and watch everything live?

Is the role of the police to come when called, or to set up shop as a tacit form of intimidation and information gathering? In the case of a night club, is it not self defeating to bring the police to your place? I mean, by the very act of having a beer, you are driving under the influence EVERY TIME. By bringing this heightened police presence and cooperation, is Break-A-Way not endangering their own customers?

Now granted, I come from a different time and place. I have always thought that a bar should be seedy, and a bit outlaw. Of course I want to feel safe, but, I understand that sometimes the wild things in the hearts of men need to roar. Sometimes we need to simply brazenly wallow. I think there is a place for that sort of thing in our city. Clearly we all have an expectation of safety, and all of the rest of it. But, sometimes you just have a bit of fever in your soul, and you just need a safe place to burn that off. And when I do, I would not do it at a place where the owner talked openly about bringing the police in to help out.

Is Break-A-Way like the Oakland Raiders? A long storied night club that has gone to seed with bad ideas, bad management, and bad execution? Is it time for Al Davis to sell the Raiders? Has the city changed too much for the old ideas of what a night spot is or is not to be relevant?

Also, I have to point out the hypocrisy of this action just a little bit. In open session this City Committee was resistant to Tyler Vogt of Malarkey’s wanting to open a second bar downtown. I believe the quote was, “That is just what downtown needs, another bar.” Well, Malarkey’s has a near-perfect reputation, and is met with resistance in making a commitment to downtown, yet a bar that is famous for being a haven for police activity is consistently given a second, third, and 47th chance.

I think it is fair to wonder what it would take to actually get police or council action in this town.

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