There’s a long list of things that make me proud to be a Californian. Although I wouldn’t place it at the top, our relatively lax laws about beer and alcohol make the cut. Where blue laws and other types of restrictions exist, we as a society have not reached our full promise of separation of church and state. Hundreds of miles away from here in the theocracy of Utah, revelers must avail of themselves of state run liquor stores to buy a bottle of Jack Daniels and shenanigans like this occur.
No thanks. It’s not that I am per se proud of the number of places where I can get hammered or the relative ease of doing so on any day of the week. It’s that our lack of restrictions in California symbolize a triumph of legal secularism over religion. Can I get an Amen!?
So on Tuesday night at the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Planning and Land Use Committee Meeting, I essentially agreed with its unanimous approval of The Bloc’s 28 conditional use permits for sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. The “Bloc” is the new name for the Macy’s Plaza, a mall built near the corner of 7th and Flower in 1972-1973.
Brian Falls, Project Manager for the Ratkovich Company led the presentation on the Bloc’s request for the permits. He emphasized that the Bloc’s request reasonably compared to FIG at 7th (which he said was granted 24 conditional use permits) and The Grove (which he said had 34 conditional use permits.) Note: a conditional use permit still requires final approval by the city, but it permits a large developer to recruit tenants with the understanding that permits will be issued more quickly.
Only Quinn Tang asked any probing questions and these mostly focused on the other portion of the application regarding amplified music. Tyler Murphy I think spoke for most DTLA residents when he said that we moved here to be part of an urban environment and not to be part of a quiet suburb. Indeed, several members of the Downtown Neighborhood Council briefly took off their oversight caps and wore their cheerleading outfits downtown resident caps. They expressed effusive gratitude and praise for the developer and I also count myself among the gracious. The current mall has the charm of a Soviet apartment complex and the hip quotient of Dustin Diamond. A major overhaul is long overdue.
Unquestionably I would have voted to approve and what was granted to the Bloc was in line with other recent major developments. What was missing from the discussion, however, was any historical context. Chiefly this: that a 403,000 square foot mall with a 660,000 square foot office tower built in the 1970s only sought or had one permit for the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages throughout the entire premise. Now, more or less the same physical structure supposedly requires over two dozen points of sale for alcohol.
An Orange Julius was just about the strongest thing you could get at the Greenwood Park Mall when I was a child. Falls rattled off places where alcohol might be sold at the Bloc including an upscale spa, a movie theatre, a café at the Macy’s and perhaps even wine for off site consumption being sold at Macy’s. The remainder of the permits would mostly be reserved for restaurants with two reserved for catering.
Note, I make observations without opposing, but I ask the question of whether this could become too much of a good thing? Malls face stiff competition from online retailers and surely need to reinvent themselves to survive. However, binge drinking among American women is on the rise. The New York Times reported that binge drinking is also on the rise among older Americans. Sales of spirits continue to surge in the United States.
We like to think we control our decisions, but countless studies have shown dramatically higher participation in a company’s 401k when employees are automatically enrolled (versus opting into the program). Is a shopper darting into a department store to buy a pair of socks more or less likely to drink if they have to walk past dozens of places that enable drinking?
On Wednesday evening the American Society of Media Photographers hosted an evening with Art Producer Jigisha Bouverat who is presently the Managing Director of Saddington Baynes. I attend events out of curiosity and briefly into Bouverat’s talk I realized I had stumbled into a new world with its own characters and lingo. Much like the characters in Christopher Guest’s Best in Show, this was a coterie of people who shared a passion for their subject.
Bouverat named off photographers like Nick Meek, Julia Fullerton-Batten, Nadav Kander and Chloe Aftel as if she was speaking of household names. Since I didn’t recognize any of them, I knew I did not belong in the club, but thankfully they didn’t kick me out of the clubhouse. Bouverat proceeded to give a talk that centered mostly around practical advice and tips for aspiring photographers about building their portfolios and obtaining the attention of Art Producers.
Although she specifically addressed advice to photographers on subjects like building their portfolios with a consistent vision and identifiable voice, much of what she said universally applies. Indeed, her admission that she recognized certain photographers because they repeatedly used the same font on their promotions reminded me of advice Kelsey Borlan gave about building a brand and consistenly using it (see here). Bouverat’s advice about researching prospects applies universally to anyone trying to make a pitch. She showed unique promotional materials that broke through and caught the attention of Art Producers – but then again, creatively setting yourself apart from the competition is required of all of us.
Apparently it takes a lot of work to break through and take photographs for the ads which teach us that our lives will be glamorous if we are just able to buy that certain car, jacket or brand of booze. Who knew that getting the opportunity to take the photos was as difficult as living up to the standards they set?
Los Angeles, Calfornia