Left In Lowell

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April 28, 2014

Who Needs Downtown Customers?

by at 1:45 pm.

So in case a Council meeting in which the destruction of brand new bike lanes isn’t enough fun for you (and a wonderful waste of taxpayer dollars already expended), there is also an Economic Development subcommittee meeting prior to the meeting, starting at at 5:30pm, where the parking ordinance will be discussed. Remember, this subcommittee is run by Corey Belanger, downtown businessman extraordinaire. Who, of course, believes he knows all the answers to downtown businesses’ woes. His latest blame game as to why his dive bar is emptier than he’d like? Those pesky parking fees on downtown street meters. The going “proposal” - I use that term loosely - is to go ahead and advertise the badly-kept secret that meters are not monitored past 4pm on weekdays and not at all on weekends. Just go ahead and make that official.

(As an aside…the thrice-bedamned PoS website is NOT updated with this term’s subcommittee membership. #majorwebsitefail)

Back to the subcommittee meeting…this is of course a totally wrongheaded and ill-informed direction for the parking ordinance. Belanger’s dive bar, the restaurants, the clothing stores, and the coffee shops…all rely on one really big thing to sustain an influx of paying customers: turnover. Downtown resident and neighborhood group secretary Corey Sciuto explains this a lot better in a letter he sent to the Council some time ago. (Worth a good reread.)

The fact that residents of the downtown know that after 4pm and on weekends there is no enforcement, means that a necessary turnover in parking, and hence of customers, comes to a complete halt in those timeframes. You know why I don’t go out to eat downtown at night or on weekends? Because I can’t find easy street parking. Why is that? Because downtown residents park and stay there for free, all evening and overnight, and all weekend. There’s no place to quickly hop out of the car, pay a small fee at a kiosk, and stay for the 15 minutes to 2 hours I can usually get my business done downtown. Once 5pm hits, a customer which wants to come in to shop or eat is screwed for street parking. Given a choice between the hassle of going on floor #4 of a parking garage blocks away from where I want to be, or going to find another place to eat outside of downtown, I often opt for the second one.

In essence, real experts in the field of economic development and revitalization indicate that we should be doing the exact opposite of what Belanger’s proposing, and actually enforce the night and weekend hours on the meters, and even extend it (maybe til 7 or 8pm, when the dinner crowd wants to come in, and on Sundays).

This is a simple concept and yet, despite the fact this is a well-known city planning rule of thumb, and that it’s been explained a zillion times, the self-appointed economic development expert just refuses to see it.

Hey look, I get it, you wanna look like you have big ideas. A sweeping vision. Funny how that comes across as entirely self-serving…and less like a vision and more like throwing shit on a wall to see what sticks…but you wanna be seen as the big man in town with lots of new ideas. Problem is, your ideas are going to sink us, real fast. This one, and the rest of the ones you’re kicking around.

The real heart of the problem is that the average IQ of this Council is just not that high. Intellectual curiosity? Heavily weighing the opinions of real experts? Thinking things through to their logical conclusion? Nah. The majority of these people will go with their uneducated gut. Real experts be damned.

I swear, this City Council is hell bent on making the City of Lowell look totally ridiculous in the eyes of our sister cities across the Commonwealth. No one can take this Council seriously. It’s gonna be a long two years, folks.

17 Responses to “Who Needs Downtown Customers?”

  1. Publius Says:

    Very rarely do I have a problem parking downtown at night or on weekends. When there are couple of events I may have a problem, but that is rare.

    Your use of “dive bar” is a deliberate pejorative. While the meaning originally meant a bar to which locals went, it has devolved into meaning a bar of disrepute. While I have never been in Belanger’s bar, I have never heard of the bar being a problem. Without any evidence, such derisive remarks should not be made.

  2. Lynne Says:

    Wah, I called it a dive bar. Well, it is. I’m not the first person to use that term to refer to whatever the hell the place is called now. It was a really nice place when it was the Dubliner but I would not want to hang with the crowd that goes there now.

    Street parking IS a problem. Sorry but it is. I’ve had many a time where I drove around and around looking for a spot when we wanted to eat downtown on a weeknight. The residents come home from work and park there for the night. I prefer not to bother going down there on the off chance I get one of those nights I drive around three times looking for an open spot, because other places outside of downtown have parking. I am not the only one - I’ve seen numerous comments from people on my post on Facebook expressing the same frustration.

  3. Laura Says:

    Majors is fine. Clean, friendly, no over-serving. It is a fine place to go for a beer and a burger.

    In terms of parking. At 7:45 I looked for on street parking. Not one to be had. It is Monday night. It is cold. The only thing going on is the LDNA meeting.

  4. Nicholas Navin Says:

    I would like to preface my comment by saying I thoroughly enjoy this blog and the few others of it’s ilk. I agree with the political point-of-view that serves (served?) as the bedrock of this website.

    That being said, Lynne, I have noticed you have become ever more fond of using “dive” to describe Major’s Pub. On 4/16, against my initial judgement, I had decided to give you the benefit of the doubt that you meant it in its more traditional sense–an informal, neighborhood bar. I have since come to agree with Publius that “Your use of “dive bar” is a deliberate pejorative.”

    I am 28 years old. I began my tenure in Lowell attending college after high school at MCC and then UML. I work for the city and live downtown. Furthermore, for the past fourteen years I have been employed in the hospitality industry. More specifically, I have or currently work in bars in downtown. From 2009-2012 I was the general manager of Hookslide Kelly’s, and I currently work at Finn’s Pub and Major’s. Additionally, my network of business relationships during the past five years has allowed me a perspective into other establishments in the area that a regular individual would never see.

    If you don’t like the job Corey is doing as a councilor that’s fine. You have a stake in this city as a resident, a right to an opinion as a voter, and the knowledge of local politics to be respected in your take.

    That being said, your vitriol towards Major’s is baseless. Major’s is the cleanest, friendliest bar in downtown–period. The fact that “you would not want to hang there with the crowd that goes there now” is the single most ridiculous thing I can remember hearing in recent memory. The clientele is literally the most docile, congenial group of customers I have ever experienced, and this atmosphere has been maintained across ten years and two locations. I am not just saying this as a current employee, or someone intimately involved with the hospitality community in downtown Lowell, but as a patron–I started going to Majors when I was 21. I KNOW what I am talking about. The fact that you prefer the clientele to when Tom Economou owned the Dubliner means you A) have never been or B)are from some dystopian universe from beyond Thunderdome.

    Call things what you will–in my readership I’ve never known you to backpedal, but then again I’ve never known you to be so comfortable being so completely clueless

  5. Lynne Says:

    Fine, it’s your fave place to hang. Have at it. I wouldn’t give the guy a dime, and personally this whole name change thing is awful weird, but hey. To each his own. Again, I think the sort of people that would go there are not my people.

    But I totally, utterly, and in all other ways stand by my assessment of this guy as the worst economic development Councilor ever.

  6. Molly Says:

    It’s a dive bar that is attempting to stay afloat by selling the naming rights and becoming a fake Irish pub. Great….then it will be a dive fake Irish pub like Finn’s –the two most empty bars in Lowell. Why would anyone go to a fake Irish pub when there is a real one on the next street over? And THIS guy is the chairman of the economic development subcommittee? What bizarro world vortex did Lowell fall into last November?

  7. Publius Says:

    Lynne,
    You called the name change of the Dubliner to Major’s “weird”. What is weird? Belanger built a brand with his establishment at its previous location. It is not illogical to transfer that brand to his new location. I would think that he weighed the pros and cons on what name to use. Could you please explain why the name change is “weird”.

    How can he be the worst economic development councilor everf, when he has only been on the job four months?

  8. Lynne Says:

    Um…no. I said I liked the Dubliner. It’s now called Majors because the Dubliner is no longer. What I am calling weird is the NEW name change which has been announced. Pay attention.

  9. Lynne Says:

    You know, “Wicked Irish” bullshit.

    And yes, he IS the worst economic development person ever. Every so-called idea he’s spewed has been crap. He’s picked the wrong side of every issue so far. He’s awful. I judge politicos on what they say and do, and he’s given me plenty of examples. I don’t hold out any hope for the next two years. Maybe you kiss his butt, but I am looking at the facts on the ground and the things he thinks are important.

  10. brian Says:

    This debate about dive bars and name changes is a waste of time. Let’s focus on the real issues.
    What does Marty Meehan, Powers, and Jim Keefe think about deleting the bike lanes?
    Goes against trying to attract students, employees, and companies to downtown.

  11. Molly Says:

    Brian for the win.

  12. Brian Says:

    Bike lanes need to be useful to get usage. Dropping a bike lane on Fr Morr Blvd is a good start but should be extended to the Gallagher Terminal to be more useful. Bike lanes and metered parking aren’t just for parking and bike riding. They are also traffic calming measures that make walking more safe and comfortable for pedestrians. Anything that make it easier for UML students and residents of the condos by the ballpark and arena more likely to walk to the core downtown is a good thing. ie. good for the Athenian and Majors
    There are no traffic issues on Fr Morr so getting rid of the bike lanes can only be about not understanding these benefits or bad politics.
    Cars that drive over solid white lines need to be pulled over.

  13. Lynne Says:

    I was just saying this elsewhere. The infrastructure is not yet built out to the point of getting you to point A to B by bike in the safest manner possible. The reason Montreal has SO many bikers - all their streets have infrastructure. We need to focus on other things we can do to share the road with bikes - and anyone who thinks they should be zooming in and out of the city in their cars needs to be educated elsewise.

    We’ve had a good start on biking infrastructure, but should not believe we are done yet.

    I will agree on the traffic calming…Father Mo was a total nightmare of speeding. Something needed to be done regardless. It is not an autobahn in the middle of the city.

  14. Brian Says:

    Jeff Speck is tweeting about Rodney Elliot…

    Yes, an American mayor actually said in 2014 that “the intent should be to move vehicles in and out of the city.”

  15. Eric Faulkner Says:

    Back to the bar…I’m a former, repeat customer of Major’s who is totally okay with Lynne’s description.

    It’s the closest bar to my house. He probably could do more about the atmosphere but the place has something like 36 taps with an amazing beer selection. (The previous owner wrecked the interior but that’s not Corey’s fault.)

    I’ve even eaten there a few times and everything I’ve eaten has been great pub food. I always get great service there, too.

    The reason I’m never going back is because 90% of the beers I’ve had there have been spoiled! I’ve ordered one IPA, tasted it, found it rotten and exchanged it for different IPA, also rancid. Major’s has the distinction of being the only place I’ve walked away from a completely full pint glass.

    Why isn’t parking having a negative impact on Fuse? Tre Monte? Cobblestones? Because it isn’t having a negative impact on Major’s. I suppose parking must have killed Fortunato’s, too?

  16. Nicholas Navin Says:

    Eric, your criticism is a concern to me. I will acknowledge it has merit. Steps have been taken to combat this issue and I would like to have a discussion with you about it should you like more in depth information.

    My email address is nicknavin14@gmail.com. feel free to reach out to me. Ive read your yelp review. I would like to encourage an environment where you, as a local resident feel the place is worth your time and money. I would like to change your mind and offer you a complimentary sampling of what we offer. I know you already gave the establishment many chances and should you feel that enough is enough there are no hard feelings, but I want you to know we appreciate your feedback and took it to heart.

    Thanks

    [Mr. Lynne: Kudos for following up Nick. Leaving an email address up on a post can sometimes put you on spam lists. Bots scour the internet looking for emails and then add them to their lists. Let me know as soon as you want it done and I’ll edit out your email from the post.]

  17. Tim Little Says:

    Here’s an interesting approach to metered parking:

    “By having the meters vary the rates of how much it costs to park on the street based on factors like how busy the street is and how polluting the vehicle that is parking is, they hope to change behavior and better allocate street space. Incentives will go both way. Not only will it cost more for the most polluting vehicles (ie. an older model diesel might pay 20% more), but hybrids will get a 20% rebate and electric cars will park for free.”

    http://www.treehugger.com/cars/polluting-cars-charged-more-madrid-smart-parking-meters.html

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