Thursday, March 23, 2006

Lava Lounge fault line

Who knew that the City of Chicago couldn't generate an accurate voter registration list? This month tons of fliers praising or damning various politicians arrived at my home off Damen Avenue — not one addressed to a previous occupant.

None of that mail was prepared to tell a complete story, and unfortunately neither was Chicago Journal when it editorialized that voter lists are stacked against the Lava lounge's new owners' attempt to retain a liquor license. Unchallenged was the assertion that hundreds of ex-residents remained on voter rolls, raising the bar impossibly high in overriding a tavern moratorium.

The editorial stated that "we're pretty sure" there was no public attempt at compromise (presumably between the owners and those obstinate ghost voters). Yet an accompanying story alluded to just such an effort early on, a community meeting in which the owners' attempts to press their case were complicated by the presence of actual residents.

It continued with an equally blithe statement that "perhaps" the bar's neighbors favor high-end cookie-cutter development over variety, although that stretch of Damen has yet to acquire such tastes. Liquor moratoriums don't get enacted where there's business diversity. Bars still outnumber boutiques south of Division — not a shoe store in sight — and they present remarkably similar closing-time headaches.

This week Chicago Journal was a finalist in the Peter Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, for a story in which Max Brooks spent time getting to know the owners and patrons of Ashland Avenue taco stands. If only Chicago Journal could have brought that kind of attention to the corner of Damen and Iowa.

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