The Six Life Stages of an Urban Entertainment District

In the beginning there were empty warehouses.  And it was good.

(Stage 1) A desolate area with low rents, many vacant commercial buildings and plenty of free parking attracts a few edgy nightclub start-ups.  The City is happy to have any businesses willing to make the risky investment to help bring a blighted area to life, and generate new tax revenue.  This short honeymoon of appreciation and tolerance by the powers that be will be the last thank you the nightclub industry receives for powering the revival of a neglected neighborhood.

(Stage 2) Trendy clubbers discover the area and more clubs open.  Parking rapidly becomes a challenge.  Rising drink prices and VIP door policies start pushing out the less affluent or attractive members of the original edgy crowd.  Media coverage champions the area and clubs as trendsetting and cool.  Police presence increases.

(Stage 3) The Entertainment District coalesces, with hip restaurants and alt boutiques cropping up around the nightclubs.  Singles start renting lofts to live in the “coolest area” of the city.  Condo development explodes and every available building is rehabbed into increasingly expensive residences.  All of the lower income original residents move “somewhere else” and the hipsters are so relieved it’s not “sketchy” anymore.  The smarter club and bar operators sell at the peak.

(Stage 4) Every parking lot gets a building built on it, so every club has to have valet and self parking is nearly extinct.  Starbucks and other national chains start popping up.  You begin to see refinements such as landscaping, antique-y street lighting and trees, trees, trees blocking businesses’ signage.  The original edgy clubs close, sell or mainstream their concept due to rising rents and increased police busts for normal nightclub behavior now suddenly deemed “outrageous,” such as “people on the sidewalk,” and “bass.”  The busts are driven by complaining residents, who moved there to be near hip nightclubs but changed their minds since they are engaged now and they like to go to bed right after the monologue, except now and then on Saturdays.

(Stage 5) Those hip singles marry, have kids and rather than move to more family friendly neighborhoods, they complain to elected officials about the noise, mess and esthetics of the remaining nightclubs and all but the most tame bars.  They transform the district into their own personal suburb by force.  Strollers are the tell-tale sign of oncoming extinction for anything not “family friendly.”  Commercial rents skyrocket above the reach of all but the largest mainstream operators and bar/club busts accelerate beyond any reasonable urban standards.  A couple of smaller funky leftovers are randomly allowed to survive as remnants of “local color” in what is now predominantly a refined, leafy, upper class neighborhood.

(Stage 6) The last of the surviving nightclubs and non-conforming bars go out of business, or leave to start over in a desolate area destined to be the next hip “Urban Entertainment District.”

The Circle of Urban Nightlife. 

Thanks to the unsung nightlife pioneers that regenerate our cities.




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