Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tame The Quarter?

Posted on Tue, Dec 11, 2007 at 7:59 PM

 by Sam Winston

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The past four months I've sporadically mentioned the Reeperbahn, Hamburg's red-light/party district(pictured), as a world example of what happens when forbidden fruit is no longer forbidden. I may have spoken too soon.

Come January 1st, the place where prostitutes work corners across the street from one of the city's major police stations (fully approved and regulated by law), where you can drink a beer in a glass on the street, on the train, or in a movie theater, where marijuana is "tolerated to personal use", is getting a tightening of the rules. Stores will stop selling alcohol earlier, bars will be "encouraged" to close earlier, and stricter zoning laws, included increased penalties and "spot searches" against weapons, will take effect in the district.

That's the trial period, after which it will go into law if all goes as planned. It's an attempt to get a handle what the city perceives a growing violence problem (perspective, I guess).

It made me think about what would happen if New Orleans ever

tried this on for size, particularly in the Quarter. Before I get lambasted here, a few questions. Would New Orleans be safer if the city as a whole shutdown earlier than it did? Would New Orleans benefit from its citizens drinking less? Can we separate New Orleans' identity from its party all the time reputation that goes along with it all? Don't we complain every year during Mardi Gras about out-of-towners that come in and trash our city, throw up on our shoes and give us a bad name?

I was a college student in Boston where aside from a 2 a.m. closing time and ban on alcohol sales on Sunday, underage college drinkers are up against undercover police units hovering around city designated liquor stores, bouncers that had state approved license scanners, and neighbors that could grant the police the right to come into your home by making a noise complaint (which became standard operating procedure for any party). I'm not interested in duplicated that atmosphere, believe me.

However, Hamburg is still keeping a lot of taboo things legal while trying to respond to an increasingly rough district late at night. Who knows if it will work. There are obviously much deeper roots the problem and other solutions. Additionally, actions like this always produce a knee-jerk reaction from me that's wary about having my individual rights trampled. But would New Orleans ever be willing to find the right mix to preserve the integrity of the city?

- The New Orleanian Abroad

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