Collier’s Weekly: It’s Time for the South Side to Grow Up

If bars don’t want raucous crowds to descend on East Carson Street, those bars should stop inviting them.


A busy South Side bar last week announced that it was closing indefinitely due to chaotic conditions on and around East Carson Street.

Without a doubt, there has been trouble in the area lately. Since the late ’90s, the city has struggled to manage the crowds that arrive each Friday and Saturday night, and several policies — including confusing and apparently ineffective parking restrictions — have failed to mitigate the problems.

The fact that shootings have increased in the area is awful, a sad result of increased gun violence countrywide. And creative minds should probably be employed to address some of the problems inherent with packing crowds onto a busy city street.

The first step, though, to any disgruntled bars: Become a different kind of bar. Because a party-focused bar complaining about chaos is like PNC Park complaining that baseball fans keep showing up.

There are many establishments on the South Side that don’t cater to the behaviors we can gently call “problem drinking.” There are bars that offer good beer and craft cocktails rather than shots and bargain-basement drink specials. There are restaurants that close at 10 or 11 rather than 1 or 2. And there are venues that present comedy, music, theater and more rather than deafening Spotify playlists and disinterested DJs.

Before I’m accused of being an old grump — an accusation which, admittedly, would be accurate — there’s plenty of room in the world for nightclubs and bars that cater to more raucous crowds. What we’ve learned, however, is that East Carson Street is no longer a very suitable place for them. The street is too busy; the sidewalks are too narrow. It’s difficult to control crowds and defuse situations. Getting in and out is difficult; parking is impossible.

That’s not the kind of place to put bars that have block-long lines at the door — nor a place to inebriate 21-year-olds prone to stumbling off the curb and into traffic.

We know this is true because the particular brand of South Side chaos only really occurs on the South Side. There’s plenty of partying going on in Oakland, yet that neighborhood never looks like East Carson Street at 1 a.m.; there are nightclubs in the Strip District, yet none of them have closed due to dangerous conditions.

If about a half-dozen bars converted to food and cocktails, closed their doors at 11 p.m. and (sorry) stopped serving White Claws, the chaos would go away overnight. And while some of the problems experienced recently have root causes larger than overserving and busy sidewalks, to invite a party then pout when it gets out of hand is hypocritical.

If the South Side doesn’t want trouble, then maybe it’s time for South Side bars to grow up.

Categories: Collier’s Weekly