A Foul Taste

Editorial written by Christopher Morrill on Tuesday, November 28, 2000

from the at-least-this-isn't-a-dry-city dept.

The Taste Lounge in Cape temporarily lost it's liquor license last week for "two counts of failure to report an illegal or violent act, and two counts of failure to close". Sounds like just another day on Good Hope to me.

It's just a preview of what's coming up next month, when their liquor license will almost certainly be permanently revoked. Pressure has been mounting to close down the establishment following the now infamous "melee" on Good Hope Street in 1999.

I have never been to The Taste, and I never will. A skinny white guy with a history of political incorrectness has no business visiting Cape's only black bar on Cape's most infamous street. Not unless I am feeling a strong urge to visit a hospital.

But I feel somehow compelled to defend it anyway.

In a nutshell, I believe that the city of Cape, if they had it their way, would not allow any bars to be open at all. Anywhere. Period. And The Taste is just falling victim to that kind of thinking.

In fact, once Cape outlaws booze, I wouldn't be shocked if they start burning witches next.

I love Cape...but damn, the city government can be so uptight about these things. Remember the riverboat casino fiascos? Remember the hassle Show Me's was given for opening up too close to a day care center? It goes on and on.

I tend to be in favor of letting people do their own thing. Drinking and carousing are unwritten constitutional rights, as far as I'm concerned. Few things are more American than a night on the town.

Even for black folks.

That's the kicker, see. If the city of Cape shuts down The Taste, they will be immediately accused of discrimination. That's already happened to some degree, actually.

Accusations of racism are thrown around with such ease these days that I tend take them with a grain of salt and a heaping helping of skepticism. But The Taste will automatically become a poster child for the small but loud group of local race-baiters upon it's demise. The Taste will become a victim. It'll be seen as the evil Rush Limbaugh-loving, lily-white Republican racist Cape Girardeau majority abusing it's downtrodden black minority.

There will be preachers out marching in protest to support a... tavern. That's how absurd and deliciously ironic this will become. You watch.

So, the demise will have to be handled with utmost care.

Holding a bar responsible for the actions of it's patrons is tricky affair, whether it be a hole-in-the-wall ghetto tavern or a redneck honky-tonk. A bar is a legitimate business. I like to emphasize personal responsibility, therefore I generally don't believe a liquor lounge is ever really liable for anything someone does after they walk out the door.

In fact, the infamous "melee" last year happened after The Taste was closed. Some of those people might have gotten mighty drunk during business hours, but any bricks thrown at cops were not thrown by the proprietor, Michael Pryor.

Of course, there is every possibility that Mr. Pryor is not running things by the book. There have been violations, so there is validity to the city council's concerns. But regardless, I believe that someone who misbehaves must themselves be punished, not someone who may indirectly contribute to that misbehavior. It's yet another way for people to escape blame for their own misdeeds.

Let's be frank: closing The Taste will not make Good Hope Street any better. In a neighborhood that rotten, any business will be a source for loitering thugs. If there were even a laundromat there instead of a bar, you can bet that there would be derelicts hanging around. That's because that's just what derelicts do.

Black folks "hanging around" on the street late at night and the mischief that comes with it are not things caused by genetics, either. It's a cultural thing. White folks like myself just don't always understand it and probably never will. We tend to get in the car and drive home fairly promptly when a bar closes. (We usually drive home badly, I might add.)

But with or without The Taste, trouble happens. It will probably always happen, and no amount of caterwauling by the city council will ever change it.

If people break laws, violate property rights, and harm others: put them in jail, period. A lawful business conducting legal trade is just that, a lawful business.

And the neighbors who don't like The Taste might want to consider another unwritten constitutional right and great American tradition...