Take out one bar, and two will pop up in its place.
That’s what happened in downtown Elko, and the culture clash continued this week when the city’s Redevelopment Agency ordered a sign on the newest bar to be changed.
Downtown business owners succeeded in their quest to have the Horseshoe Club bar and former strip club closed in 2015, when the city revoked the rowdy establishment’s liquor license. Since then another bar opened in the same building, followed by a second bar nearby.
Last week the Redevelopment Agency rejected a sign that already had been installed over the Moon Bar, claiming it was not representative of the type of business inside. The City Planner Cathy explained that businesses within the redevelopment district must meet stricter guidelines, and have signs that give the public a proper perception of the type of business.
All but one member of the Redevelopment Agency – composed entirely of city council members and the mayor – thought the sign was too suggestive of another type of business. John Patrick Rice pointed to the brothels just a few blocks away to explain his decision.
The question of whether this sign meets the agency’s guidelines is certainly open to debate. It shows a long-haired woman looking up and raising her hand, in silhouette against the moon. Perhaps if she had been holding a cocktail glass it would have met approval.
The controversy comes as many businesses in the district are improving their storefronts – some with help of grant money for redevelopment. The Moon Bar’s façade, however, was updated by the property owner without city funding.
As we stated in an earlier editorial, the RDA will only be successful to the extent that private business owners are willing to invest their time and money in improving their properties.
Regardless of funding sources, any businesses planning to upgrade within the district are now on notice that not only their facades but also their signage will be placed under scrutiny. That apparently did not happen in this case, as the city claims that the sign contractor did not submit the proper paperwork before installation and that the RDA was not aware of the design until after it had been mounted.
This is hardly the first bump in the RDA’s mission since its plan was adopted a decade ago. Last year saw the unexpected departure of the city planner and two advisory board members. Earlier efforts to adopt a redesign of the parking corridor hit snags when business owners objected to the removal of parking spaces.
Such disagreements are inevitable when trying to reach a consensus over factors that affect people’s livelihoods. The business owners our reporter spoke with this week seemed to side with the minority opinion on the RDA, while reaction on social media was mixed.
We support the RDA’s efforts to spruce up the downtown district, but we also believe that the cultural makeup of our community will continue to include a diversity of aesthetics. How those views fit in with the city’s broad plan for redevelopment is a welcome topic of debate.
The sign remains up, and the bar’s owner plans to meet with the mayor about the decision – which apparently does not make room for a formal review process. Meanwhile, we hope the attracted attention boosts sales at the bar and other businesses downtown, which sorely need more investment.