Commentary: A Word About R Place

By Derrell Connor Special To Channel 3000

To all thugs, criminals, wannabe gangstas and knuckleheads on the south side and the greater Madison Community:

Congratulations!

You have once again contributed mightily to the demise of another nightclub/tavern in Madison. The Madison Common Council voted on Tuesday to revoke the license of R Place on Park, adding it to the lengthy list of taverns and nightclubs that have been shut down over the last 15 years because you can’t act right.

I know Rick Flowers and his wife, Annie Weatherby Flowers, personally and they are good people. They opened R Place on Park to provide a venue for musicians and for folks on the south side and around Madison to come and listen to live blues, jazz, rhythm and blues and hip-hop. They aren’t criminals, nor did they invite trouble to their club.

But, unfortunately, trouble kept finding its way in front of and around their establishment. It’s sad that once again the actions of a few have spoiled it for the many, causing a business — and a family’s livelihood — to be shuttered because of it.

While I believe that the blame lies at the feet of the troublemakers who constantly make it difficult for others to have a good time, it’s amazing to me that every single nightspot that plays hip-hop — or, in this case, jazz and rhythm and blues as well — in Madison always meets the same end. It makes me stop and wonder what the disconnect is here in this city. Before moving to Madison, I lived in Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay Area. I have visited many places in this country and around the world, and I have never seen a city other than Madison that can’t seem to sustain nightspots that cater to different musical tastes.

There are those who feel that hip-hop music, and in particular the gangster rap genre, causes these problems. They say that venues that play this type of music often attract the wrong type of clientele. And any type of security measures an establishment puts in place is unable to prevent the type of incidents that have caused nightclubs like the Majestic, Club Seven, The Paramount, The Underground and now R Place to close down. While this has been true of Madison, there are many cities around the country that have multiple nightclubs that play dance and hip-hop music that don’t have these perennial problems.

And if and when issues arise, the club owners and police work together to deal with them. In Madison, the police department has consistently stated that nightclub owners like Rick Flowers resist police assistance while the owners of these establishments past and present have said that the opposite is true. Whatever the case, it’s clear that there is a problem in Madison that goes beyond thugs shooting at each other outside and around an establishment.

A friend told me recently that the problem with Madison is that, unlike other cities, there’s no entertainment district that caters to different musical tastes and activities. Perhaps clubs like R Place on Park would benefit from being in an entertainment district and not a neighborhood. I think that’s a legitimate point. Unfortunately, that doesn?t help Rick Flowers, who now finds himself without a business that he worked so hard to build.

I’ve stated in a previous column that I don?t believe that business owners should be held responsible for the actions of troublemakers outside or around their business unless they themselves are acting irresponsibly, and I stand by that statement. I also don’t blame the police and residents on and around Park Street who have grown tired of fights and gunshots. Again, the fault lies with the criminals who bring their drama around venues like R Place. But Madison needs to start effectively dealing with the changing demographics and separate the troublemakers from law-abiding citizens.

The Madison police have sent a message that they won’t tolerate bars and nightclubs that attract trouble. I hope they’re prepared to spread that message to other troubled venues as well.