Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Shannon's (Crash) Landing

No, no. I did not crash land (at least in any literal sense).

Rather, a situation was brought to my attention that underlines much of what I think is wrong with bars/music venues today.

I come to find out, through my good friends/best damned band around The Wanderers, that a regular hang-out and show venue for them (and by implication, all of their crowd) has, shall we say, shifted paradigms. I am speaking of Shannon's Landing in Lansing, Illinois.

All euphamism aside, the place has turned into another example of why I hate bars and many of the people who go to them.

Apparently, the place has decided to "raise" its image by introducing brighter lights, flat-screen televisions, new dress for the staff and have removed the dart board.

In other words, they have turned a really great place (it overlooks a runway at an airport) in a unique location into another brightly lit, safe hang-out for the post-collegiate and miserable suburban yuppie crowd that seems to be taking things over everywhere in the southern suburbs of Chicago (my ancestral home).

Why is this bad, you ask? Isn't it good to change sometimes?

Well, as the old saying goes, change for the sake of change is the philosophy of the cancer cell.

The management has apparently made it clear that The Wanderers and "those types of people" who listen to them are no longer welcome no matter that they usually make for a financially successful evening for the establishment.

What this says is that spending power no longer is the great equalizer, at least as far as bars are concerned. Drinking culture in the United States, at least public drinking culture, can be seen to be more egalitarian than in, say, Great Britain where pubs often catered to certain classes of clientele (and moreso after the middle class began to do their drinking at home). Public places of entertainment, including bars, should openly welcome all paying customers that do not destroy property.

This should be even more apparent to these bar owners when they consider the regular crowds and the revenue brought in by a live music act, especially one that has the history of crowd-rallying of The Wanderers (I know this from first-hand experience).

Where does this leave us? With another unique neighborhood spot turned into a brightly lit Denny's with a bar; a place that is safe for granny and the kids and not filled with "those people" who might scare off the parish gentry. Just another "Irish" bar that has completely forgotten the sociocultural function of the pub in Irish society (as a site of local unity rather than a continuation of the divisions that the rest of society makes all too clear).

This is also a paean of the death of the "neighborhood tavern" in general. A place where people could go with their friends, where they know you, to drink and relax (with other adults, mind you) and maybe, just maybe, take in some local live music. A complete evening's entertainment and all should be happy, right?

Not right. This is a blatant case of judging a collective book by its cover. You, bar owner, are a business. That means, in the simplest sense, that you are in a pursuit to turn a profit that is greater than your losses. What you are not is a judge of the social acceptability of your patrons or their friends. You are also not imbued with the power to judge, from the mere sound of a band playing, that their fans MUST be "those types," unacceptable and therefore out of line with the "corporate philosophy (a term that I think is bullshit. The philosophy of corporations is to be profitable. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying)."

I close by saying that I hope that the owners of this newly purged establishment get exactly what they hope for. Kids and old people are notoriously bad tippers and don't drink as much as a crowd there to see a band. Why don't you also ban smoking, just to make it complete. Hell, it's doing wonders for local bars in Madison. It would go over like a house on fire in your brave new tavern world.

Or, in a more poetic end, maybe one of those planes will misjudge the runway JUST enough...


Matthew Jenks said...

Come on. You honestly expect real insight and attention to clientele by bar owners who? These are the people who think that the best way to get a crowd is to offer uninspired food and a "varied" tap list featuring "over twenty styles of ale"...except that they overlook the fact that all of these so-called "styles of ale" are various incarnations of standard, insipid American lagers. And, I imagine since this is an Irish bar, they have the standard Harp and Guinness (both of which are brewed in America, I might add) along with stellar standouts Killians "Irish" Red (again, an American creation) and/or Michael Shea's red ale (again, American...and really closer to a Vienna or Eastern European lager).

These are people who, much like the politicians featured in your blogs, make a living by misleading the American public (both the bar owners AND the brewers at the macro houses). Shifts in "attitude" like this are very common all over. I've seen this here in NC where you take a bar, give it some Irish-sounding-name, offer burgers and fries (because potatoes are Irish) and slop some watered down Harp in a glass (or better yet, watered down Harp mixed with Sprite). Kill the live music, force through some techno music with an electric fiddle in it (again, because the fiddle in inherently Irish), charge and exorbitant amount of money for cover, and then stuff you into a room where you're asshole-to-armpit with the most wretched congregation of scum and villainry in the city (this of course being the yuppie establishment who are there to seek out their Irish know the ones...with last names like Hochstetler and Leibowicz).

Ugh. Give me dark and gloomy over plasma screens and horny computer programers who have set out to pound down shitty beer, yell real loud, awkwardly attempt to Salsa dance and maybe brush up against a girl in a mid-riff before going home, throwing up, and masturbating to images of said girl. I'll even take being smashed together with the "kind of crowd" that follows the Wanderers. At least they're not lying to themselves about their own self worth.

The Wanderers and their "ilk" don't need shit like that place. The beauty of bars is, there's always another one, and there will always be one that plays the role of the great equalizer. Unfortunately, it's more work to find one these days.

If you feel so inclined (and because I know you don't have enough to read already), pick up a copy of "Travels with Barley" by Ken Wells. It's a good read, both for the historic features of brewing and for the search for the "perfect beer joint."

Lost A Sock said...

Yes, seems everybody's going "TGI Fridays" these days. So much for different, eh?

MacScotsman said...

First thing I'd like to say is...

All the GUINNESS® sold in the UK, Ireland and North America is brewed in Ireland at the historic St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin.

Having said that, I too mourn the loss of Shannon's Landing. The new place looks like an ice cream parlor. I used to plan virtually every group drinking night around that place because it felt like a neighborhood bar. It had a definite Irish pub feel, and was a place where young and old felt comfortable tipping back a few. The new place sucks. Simple and to the point.

Just as an aside... the change is due to the sale of the place. They apparently had some management trouble, and then sold it. The new owner is the culprit here.

Broomy81 said...

You'll be happy to know that it is now closed, and changing hands again. Turns out that destroying everything about the place that made people go there was not a great business decision. Sad for those of us that loved it the way it was.