Saturday, August 9, 2014

Private clubs and Uber/Lyft hit LR City Board agenda

Posted By on Sat, Aug 9, 2014 at 7:05 AM

click to enlarge STATISTICS: Numbers might not tell the whole story about crime, police activity and private clubs.
  • STATISTICS: Numbers might not tell the whole story about crime, police activity and private clubs.

The agenda is out for the Aug. 12 Little Rock City Board Agenda meeting, at which items will be scheduled for discussion and votes the following week.

But, these two items are listed for discussion, with any attached proposals by way of ordinances or city staff recommendations:

1) 5 a.m. ABC permits.

2) Uber/Lyft

The ABC permits refer, of course to the handful of private clubs that still allow them to operate until 5 a.m. There's a movement on the City Board, led by Director Joan Adcock, to require an earlier closing hour. It's an arbitrary and nonsensical idea. The board can't claim public safety issues when it allows a proliferation of crime- and vagrant-magnet convenience stores with no statutory limitations on their hours or any of the added security measures required of private clubs. It's simple conventional small minds attempting to impose their ideas of behavior on others.

Uber/Lyft is, of course, the ride sharing service tied to phone apps that is taking major cities around the country by storm and upsetting taxi operators no end. Little Rock has a single taxi franchise holder. He's a political contributor and longtime friend in political ways of Director Joan Adcock. She's being fighting the entry of Uber, which has been advertising for drivers. It should be a non-starter to attempt to keep Uber out of the market. It doesn't mean they can't be regulated as they have been in other cities.

I'm trying to find out if the agenda means they will be discussed at the agenda session or set for discussion the following week. It's important that all interested parties be heard.

UPDATE: The discussion WILL be this Tuesday, I've been told. 

The agenda meeting starts at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

UPDATE: Fox 16 reported last night on police calls to private clubs. I suspect they're right in saying the numbers should influence the city board  debate. They should not; or at the very least should be taken with a big dose of salt. Here's why:

1) Of course police calls rise between 2 and 5 a.m. compared with between midnight and 2 a.m. Business at the late-night clubs increases dramatically after 2 a.m., when other venues close.

2) It is seriously misleading to focus on police calls in the early morning at private clubs to suggest that police calls there are somehow unique products of clubs.

The Times is working on a story about police calls. You might be surprised at the dozens — hundreds — of calls to a big Walmart in Southwest Little Rock during daylight hours. They swamp private club demands. You'd be floored by the police manpower detailed to the River Market district — at routine city expense — and at the innumerable encounters there on any given day. Just Tuesday, the Little Rock city board heard that a 10-man detail has been created to center operations at a problematic Kum & Go convenience store at Asher and University. Nobody is proposing to make the Kum & Go shut at sundown.

Police calls to clubs prove not much. They reflect conventional thinking — that people should be in bed between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. Some people work night shifts. Some live nocturnal schedules. The city should think long and hard before it imposes its idea of conventional behavior on a narrow group of businesses and their customers. At the least, it ought to take a look at Walmart, Kum & Go and River Market police activity before it decides that a police response count is evidence enough to put somebody out of business.

PS — Sharp readers here and on our Facebook post note that 1,241 calls over 30 months is 41 per month, or 1.3 per day among about 10 clubs. And only half of those are in the hours targeted for suppression. Not a heavy load, in other words.

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