Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Don't Mess With Downtown's Rep.

The front page of the paper today is covered in news about the death of Daniel Sepeda. Friends and family have set up a shrine in front of Downtown Joe’s in honor of the man they said was kind and generous. Angry vandals have broken the windows and spray painted threats all over the establishment. Former neighbors gathered on the corner to cry and comfort each other. According to the paper “Another person left a necklace with a note that said, “If you take anything or necklace I promise I’ll find you and kill you.” What the hell??

One man said about Daniel, “Alls he was doing was having a good time and got killed.” Apparently Daniel has a good time by getting into a giant bar fight. There were between 5-10 people involved in the fight and he was definitely one of them. Witnesses say he even began fighting with the bouncers who were trying to get him out of there. It’s still not clear why Daniel died even though the police arrived right away. The autopsy results have not been released.

Many owners of nearby business establishments complained about how that business causes problems for those trying to improve the area. Since 1998 that bar has been bought and sold three times. Emily Thiroux called Downtown Joe’s the “Rotten apple of the barrel.” Jeremy Fike, who recently moved his business from the northwest, said that violence happens all over and it is unfair to blame ‘downtown.’ The he said the problem is more likely related to “Whatever it is they put in Budweiser and Coors Light” stating that he never saw any fights when he lived in San Francisco. I think Fike may be on to something.

I will say this; the manner in which The Californian reports these incidents does nothing to help downtown’s reputation. They published a timeline of some of the violent things that have happened over the past few years. Once again they reported that in 1997 “Alfred Martinez, a bouncer (was) stabbed to death in an alley near what was then Panama Jack’s Last Resort.” The former owner of Panama Jack’s is a good friend of mine. Before this incident occurred his business was booming. After the paper repeatedly tied the stabbing to his bar people quit coming. He struggled in vain to keep his business going, dumping all the money he made back into the bar. He ended up losing everything. Needless to say, he does not have warm feelings for The Californian.

People always say, “Don’t believe everything you read in the paper” but many people still do. I understand it’s a paper and they’ve got to find something to talk about but repeatedly reporting crime and violence downtown doesn’t help the business owners who are trying to revitalize the area. Thiroux even said "To me, Rockin' Rodeo is more dangerous than downtown."There are violent crimes going on all over town all the time. There are fights in bars all over town and there are bouncers beating people up all over town. It doesn’t just happen downtown.

This is Bakersfield. People are getting drunk and fighting all over the place.