Main Street: Liquor Lane Or Wowza?
What we love and loathe about living in East Greenwich this month.
RANT: The recent hoopla over whether certain businesses should receive liquor licenses has left me scratching my head.
A coffee shop is ok, but a dessert store isn’t?
(In case you are thinking that it makes immense sense as those who over-imbibe at the coffee shop can quickly sober up with a few shots of high octane joe, studies published in Scientific American show that combining large amounts of alcohol and caffeine simultaneously can actually be lethal. So there.)
OK, I don’t live with my head in a can. I get that laws can change attitudes and oftentimes, they can be the first step towards a change in mentality and our society’s values. The reality of this hit me on the noggin just last week when my kids and I were on vacation in Las Vegas. Smoking is legal inside the casinos (natch) and Jazz and Tasha would (a bit dramatically, I concede) choke and propeller their hands like Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Men (Family Guy fans will get the reference) as we walked through the gaming areas to get to our hotel room. Now I am of an age where smoking wasn’t just legal everywhere from offices to restaurants to airplanes; it was a national past-time. Practically everyone smoked – including my parents, my babysitter, my doctor and my teachers. As a result, nicotine fumes seemed as natural as, well, breathing. My sister and I were exposed to Eau de Camel from breakfast to weekend drives to the beach to bath-time. But today’s bans has resulted in a generation of kids who can not only sniff out if someone once smoked in a location circa 1979; the lingering odors immediately kick in their gag reflex.
So maybe those proposing limiting the amount of alcohol sold in town are right. Maybe you can have too much of a thing, good or bad, and constant exposure does make certain actions more acceptable. Maybe we don’t need another place – or two – selling liquor in our town.
But there goes my libertarian streak, showing itself again. All right, my semi-liberal streak because I do believe in speed limits, limits for assault weapons and that dogs should never ever be allowed to poop where children play, even if their servants scoop the stuff up. But what doesn’t make sense to me is why some places should be allowed to sell alcohol and others should not. Free market, anyone? I am not a fan of big box stores and I think the intersection near Dave’s has too many pharmacies and the whole state is glutted with Double D’s, but I figure that the consumer will prevail (case in point: the death of Lowe’s in North Kingstown). If the town is going to start limiting licenses based on the fact that it’s something that they deem we already have enough of, then I say let’s ban Italian restaurants, manicure stores, hair salons and gyms. Because one could say that our town has way too many of all of those places as well.
Anyway, this isn’t about turning Main Street into Bourbon Street – it’s about economic development, supporting small businesses, and hopefully creating job opportunities for local residents. And, it seems, a place where I can not only eat my ice cream, I can drink it too. Bottom’s up!
RAVE: While we’re on the subject of Main Street, can I just say, “Wowza”?
I have just finished reading Bill Bryson’s laugh-out-loud funny The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America. Mr. Bryson’s goal is to travel through the states to find “Amalgam” – the perfect town he remembers from childhood. It’s an ever-sunny peaceful place with a tree-lined Main Street full of friendly merchants, a center square and a town theater; a place lacking the overabundance of shopping malls and commercial strips littered from one side of town to another that define so many towns these days.
Bill Bryson traveled 13,978 miles and never found his Madeline. Shame he didn’t come here.
Ok, we may not have the constant sun (and frankly, who needs it if the state of Florida is any example) and we do host a few strips, but here’s the thing. All you read about these days is that the old American Main Street icon is not only dying; along with the family farm and family dinners, it’s no longer sustainable in today’s fast-paced world. It’s now something that used to be, much more than something that is.
I beg to differ. It is here. I passed through Main Street from one end to the other a few nights ago for the first time in a long time. Usually, I am heading to a specific place and don’t really have the time to take in the whole ambience. And ambience it has, in spades. The lights were twinkling on the trees, most of the real estate is occupied and the windows are filled with a variety of attractive sights, people are strolling, restaurants are busy and center stage, The Odeum’s marquis is bright with announcements of coming shows. Some – like me – might feel that all that’s missing is a grocery store – but between Back to Basics, East Greenwich Farm and (dare I say it?) CVS, most everyday needs are covered. Throw in the nearby waterfront and Scalloptown Park and you have struck gold, my friend.
If the definition of a thriving town – i.e., one that honors its history while still meeting many of the basic aspirations of smart growth by being walkable, compact, centrally located, with many types of shops and services integrated together and places to live on upper floors or in houses a short walk away, we ARE it.
Well done, us. As Bart Simpson would say (you’re really getting a lot of insight into my viewing habits this month), “Bite me, Bill!’