The trend is positive in Downtown Greensboro

by Jeff Sykes

I cringed when I saw the address on the press release announcing yet another overnight shooting in the Gate City. Not to sound cynical but having spent three years on the police beat and being a seasoned reader of crime reports, I’ve pretty much become accustomed to the overnight robbery and post-2:30 a.m. shooting incident.

But this one was different.

Not just because of the location, well yes mostly because of that, but also because of the reaction I knew would follow.

One man was shot to death, and three were wounded in the early morning hours of this past Saturday. Police shot a fourth person as they responded to the reported gunfire. Police aren’t saying much about what caused the shooting, other than groups of people leaving separate night clubs downtown had a disagreement that resulted in bloodshed.

One version of the story has a group of African Americans and a group of Hispanics clashing in typical drunken bravado along South Elm Street after the clubs closed down. State law mandates such establishments hurl people into the streets at 2:30 a.m. They are allowed to serve drinks up until last call at 2 a.m.

Sources indicate that the incident stemmed from a minor traffic incident, with one car stopped in the middle of Elm Street near Lewis Street and the other trying to get past it, before the violence erupted.

Anyone familiar with Greensboro’s news cycle will immediately recognize that locale as one of the hottest in the city. It’s the second side street along South Elm that leads back to The Railyard, home to the wonderful City Market held once a month during the warm season. Up the hill, Barnhardt Street leads past The Works Bistro and enters the site, with its newly paved lot and a grassy area to the side. Up ahead is the brand new Spice Cantina, just opened after much anticipation. The city spent six figures to help the Spice Cantina get up and running.

Across the parking lot is the exit for Lewis Street, which leads between Lotus nightclub and a double-shot of brand new neighbors. Gibb’s Hundred, a microbrewery that opened last month after nearly a year of sweat equity and a $1 million investment by its owners, and The Forge, a shared makerspace for hands-on entrepreneurs, lead down Lewis Street to one of the city’s hottest restaurants, Table 16.

At the opening of Lewis and Elm streets one is in the heart of what city planners hope becomes a new entertainment district. Up and down the street between the railroad tracks and Lee Street are an eclectic mix of boutique shops, a theater and art galleries, along with Mellow Mushroom and the Elsewhere Collaborative.

These are some of the most important grassroots businesses and arts venues that make up the heart of the creative class in Greensboro.

I spend a lot of time on a regular basis in the area between Table 16 and Scuppernong Books. Just last week I went to the 10 p.m. Dave Chapelle show at the brand new Cone Denim Entertainment Theater.

There is a thirst for great entertainment in the heart of Greensboro’s downtown. A lot of that thirst is often fueled by beer and alcohol sales. I think it goes back to proper management of each establishment, with owners and staff being cognizant of the line between fun and drunkenness.

Greensboro seems to always be on the cusp of a major breakthrough in its cultural milieu, only to have a serious overreaction to a seemingly random, albeit negative, situation that arises.

And I think that’s the key point here. Yes there was another incident of violence at the Lotus on Saturday, and maybe there will be the bad apple that gets thrown out of the mix. There are much larger forces at work in the shooting incident, however. We are a gun-happy culture. The stand your ground movement is in full bloom across the south, and so it remains unclear if those forces are at work here.

Bravado and alcohol in the wee hours of the morning fuel a violent mix in every city in America. Greensboro before 2 a.m. is a wonderful city with a vibrant downtown that I walk around in on a regular basis.

I hope level heads prevail, and the city doesn’t rush to create some new, heavy-handed policy in reaction to a random tragic event.

The city’s creative and cultural vanguard deserves an open space to grow in. !