One thing we've learned over the past year or two: the City of Savannah has some serious issues with local bars.
Let's go down the list of recent crackdowns:
• The all-ages ordinance change;
• Increased (and some say selective) enforcement of noise ordinance violations;
• The bar employee licensing system (itself stemming from a crackdown on underage drinking which some establishments maintain was also selective);
• And now another smoking ban, this one directly targeting local bars.
Those are just the most obvious examples; a more in-depth analysis could no doubt come up with many more.
Good people can and will disagree as to the particulars of these actions by City Council and government officials.
But it seems indisputable that City Council spends a disproportionate amount of its time dealing with bar issues, almost all of which seem to be centered downtown.
No one is saying City government doesn't have the right to regulate local businesses. But what many citizens and taxpayers are saying - including The Rail Pub co-owner Trina Brown in her heartfelt letter - is that the City spends way too much time and effort focusing on local small businesses, especially those in the entertainment/nightlife sector.
There are various issues at play, one of which is clearly the desire of some politicians to appeal to some segments of the electorate who don't give a flip about what happens in the downtown entertainment/tourist district.
Hell, a lot of local voters are downright ill-disposed toward businesses in the downtown/tourist area, and look forward to City Council putting on its periodic witch trials - complete with the usual ritual public humiliation of hapless business owners who have the audacity to speak their mind at council meetings.
If you don't believe me, pay attention during the municipal elections in 2011. You will actually see more of this, not less.
It's a myth that most people in town support local small business, or support business at all. There's a reason local politicians slam business owners and employers and landlords every chance they can: It gets them more votes than they lose.
Simple cost/benefit analysis.
Unfortunately, there's another cost/benefit analysis going on in the form of a gruesome local economy and jobs picture, and its corresponding negative impact on the tax base.
To read more about the latest on the proposed new smoking ban (as well as the controversial millage rate increase), see Patrick Rodgers' overview this issue.
As regular readers of this column will know, I'm not one who says that government should always bow down to the will of business - not by a long shot.
And it's true that City officials actually have little-to-no power over the really big local players like Georgia Power and Gulfstream and El Paso and the Georgia Ports Authority.
So given human nature, it's hardly surprising that they would focus their attention on those areas where they actually have a good deal of power - small business, for example.
But by the same token, a City government which seems to go out of its way to discourage small business in the form of selective, often-petty overregulation will soon find itself running a city that's losing money and jobs - a city with the reputation as a business-killer and a place to move away from, not to move to.
Once that downward spiral starts, it's extremely difficult to end.
Ask Detroit about that one.
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