Northside Community Entertainment District Approved, City Awards Creative Tools to Grow

Mar 10, 2012 by

Northside at night (photo courtesy Adam Nelson)

With its eclectic mix of locally-owned businesses, the Northside neighborhood is already known as a prime Cincinnati food, retail, and arts destination in the region. But empty storefronts that would also make great restaurants have remained largely empty because of the lack of liquor licenses. Last week, all that changed. On Wednesday, February 29th, the full Cincinnati City Council voted to give Northside its “Community Entertainment District” status after a unanimous vote the day before by the City Council’s Livability Committee.

This is a huge win for Northside. Why? For at least the last couple of years, Northside’s business district, while hanging in there in the midst of the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, has had to turn away small businesses wanting to open in the neighborhood, merely because of the lack of liquor licenses available and the premium $30,000+ cost of the very few licenses that were available on the open market.

The new designation changes that game. The Northside Community Entertainment District designation gives creative tools to the Northside neighborhood to enable new growth. Rather than a business having to reach out to a broker to maybe, just maybe, find a license at a relatively huge cost, a process that often takes years, they can now call the state of Ohio directly. In our new Community Entertainment District, up to 15 additional liquor licenses are immediately available to food establishments, all at a dramatically reduced cost of $1500, all directly available from the state, and with no outside brokers involved. These licenses are not transferable. If the business with the new license were to move out of the Northside district, they would forfeit that license. Note again that these licenses are not available to a business that only wants to open a bar, these are licenses that are available only to food establishments. This is a major win for Northside and small businesses.

The original 2005 Community Entertainment District legislation was initially not really geared for anything but for-profit developers to obtain. Last year, the not-for-profit Pleasant Ridge Development Corporation couldn’t afford the Community Entertainment District’s original application fee of $15,000. Many thanks need to go to Cincinnati City Council Member Laure Quinlivan, who worked hard to change the Cincinnati municipal code to make the fee downwardly flexible, thus opening the possibility of designation to not-for-profits. This change to the fee structure allowed Pleasant Ridge to apply for the status without outside funding, making Pleasant Ridge the first Cincinnati neighborhood to apply for and win the designation.

Already, Pleasant Ridge has new businesses that wouldn’t be there if not for that designation. As well, the neighborhood of Price Hill recently won Community Entertainment District status, and several new businesses have either already opened or they are about to open. So far, the two neighborhoods that have won the designations have benefited immensely. Over-the-Rhine, Madisonville and Westwood have also applied for Community Entertainment District status but have not yet received it.

Northside's new Community Entertainment District covers not just the traditional business district, it also targets a wide area south of Blue Rock Street.

The Northside Business Association first started working with Laure Quinlivan’s city council office early last year after hearing of the possibility of Northside applying for and winning this important designation; the designation wouldn’t have been possible without Laure and her staff’s efforts. Also, Berding Surveying needs to be thanked, as they donated their services to the effort to produce the required survey and map. Once Northside’s required application package was completed, as a matter of transparency, the plan was presented at open Northside Community Council and Northside Business Association public meetings for comment. Community support was widespread, and the package was sent along to the city council’s Livability Committee for consideration.

Northside Business Association President Isaac Heintz has this to say about the designation: “The Northside Business Association pursued the entertainment district designation to provide Northside with another tool to help retain existing businesses and to attract new ones.  I believe that the designation of the entertainment district can only help to continue the positive trajectory of the neighborhood and the growth of the Northside community.”

Northside's "South Block", along Spring Grove Avenue, is ripe for redevelopment. The Landman Building, right, was recently stabilized and environmentally remediated and is ready for build-out. The building just to the left is now a LEED Silver building with several newly-occupied residential and business condos.

The new district covers much of the existing Northside business district along Hamilton Avenue from the Ludlow Viaduct in the south to just below the Northside Library in the north. In the southern end of the district, Blue Rock Street and Spring Grove Avenue are both included, roughly from Colerain Avenue on the west side, to Crawford Avenue on the east.

As you’re aware, there are currently a lot of existing empty storefronts and industrial spaces in the new entertainment district’s map. We’d love to see that change. Can’t you imagine once-forlorn Northside blocks now teeming with urban life? By enabling these new licenses, we hope to see more development in the district. This new development would include not only the new food establishments benefiting from the designation, but additional retail, arts, office and residential spaces , all serving to increase the vibrancy, diversity, and uniqueness of all that is Northside.

(Full disclosure: GeekJames, a.k.a. James Heller-Jackson, is a certifiable Northside resident shill as a member of the board for both the Northside Business Association and the Northside Community Council.)

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Occupy Your Plate

Jan 10, 2012 by

I am so proud of the Occupy Movement! I hope people are getting wise to the contempt Corporate America has for the rest of us. I’m not just referring to the banking industry, either. Corporate goes for all kinds of industry: electronics, textiles, food, energy, etc.., lots of businesses where their primary focus is to make money. Not to serve a community need, to make money. Not to provide a quality product at a good value to the consumer, to make money.

I’ll try to keep this rant to food.

I’ve been preaching about the local foods movement and local business in general, not because it is cool but because it trumps the corporate counterparts by the presence of COMPASSION and that their bottom line isn’t the only line they care about. Have you caught any of the articles tattling on the sometimes disgusting antics of Big Ag and Big Food? Did you hear about the company that re-processed gallons of moldy applesauce to ship to schools? Or the countless recalls of E. Coli-tainted meats and vegetables that somehow still manage to get to the public? Maybe you’ve seen these corporate food lies: your “freshly” squeezed orange juice that has actually sat in a vat for up to a year, your meats that get doused with ammonia , the cellulose and other industrial by-products that find their way into more processed food than you would like to know about. Why isn’t this squawked about on mainstream news?

“So what can I do about this and why should I care?” you might say. “Eating healthy / organic / local is too expensive and I don’t have the time / desire / know-how to cook.”

My shopping reflects my values and I vote with my pocketbook. Start small and don’t try to re-invent the wheel in a week. I would rather spend an hour cooking something for my family than watching TV, but that’s me.

Don’t like factory farms? Seek out a local market and shop there. Spending money with local retailers strengthens the community and is a slap in the face of recession. Start a vegetable garden, and share your bounty with your neighbors – defy the “bedroom community” label and chat in person. Know that if we don’t start giving a damn about what we purchase, and where it comes from – that the quality of these things will continue to tank. The rich will get richer from our apathy. Our economy is based almost entirely on us buying stuff, so make every dollar count!

This video of a farmer addressing the NYC Occupy group nearly got me bawling. I can’t help but feel sickened and a little enraged every time I hear a sound bite about how unorganized the movement is, or the “But what do they stand for?” bullshit. The food lies are as insidious as the lies about “trickle-down economics” – don’t believe the hype. There has been a great interview with Chris Hedges making the rounds that I think hits the mark, and I will leave you with this quote from his book, Losing Moses on the Freeway: The 10 Commandments in America:
“We watch impassively as the wealthy and the elite, the huge corporations, rob us, ruin the environment, defraud consumers and taxpayers and create an exclusive American oligarchy that fuses wealth and political power. We watch passively because we believe we can enter the club. It is greed that inspires us. It is greed that keeps us silent. Our greed is devouring us.”




Dark Martha

Conscious Urban Living

Carriage House Farm


PS – If you are in the Cincy area, and are interested in getting that garden going, join me for my class series coming up in a few weeks.

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Support Tuckers in the Wake of the Violence: Tweetup Saturday

Jan 18, 2011 by

I was sitting on my couch trying to put together a belated post for MLK Day when the news rocketed across Twitter and Facebook: two people were shot in broad daylight at Tuckers in the OTR. My jaw dropped. Even by the standards of  someone like myself,  who grew up in a much more violent city, this was horrific.

I watched as waves of fear and remorse rippled through our local online community, made even worse by the fact that flying bullets are so rare here by comparison to what I’m used to (one of the reasons we ended up here). Then I started to see the type of reaction that warms my heart. In short order a Tweetup was conceived by Kate the Great (details below), a show of support for both this historic eatery and the neighborhood in which it resides.  Let’s pack the house this coming Saturday, shall we?

You see this incident, while hideous, is colorful enough that detractors of the urban core will immediately rally around it. Residents of the area will be justifiably freaked out, and the reputation of this rebounding neighborhood will suffer a blow. While this incident is high profile, and injured people beloved by the community, it is not indicative of the OTR as a whole. If it were no one would be shocked by this outburst of violence. An outburst, I might add, that while uncommon could happen in any densely populated urban area.

Rather than allow this to strike a blow against the burgeoning Renaissance of the OTR let us instead stand up for our home and our fellows. This should become a rallying point for people to come together and enact a change for the better. Residents should look out for each other more and begin neighborhood watch groups. Bloggers and journalists need to ask “cui bono?” and track where our law enforcement budget is being deployed and with what results. It is a call to action, one I hope is heeded.

In the meantime a show of community, a show of faith, and a damn good meal are in order. Join us at Tucker’s on Saturday. We cannot let fear, violence and cynicism win out over intellect, community, and hope.

-Loki, Founder and Curator

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Pomodori’s in Clifton: Epic Service Fail

Oct 2, 2010 by

I genuinely hate giving a restaurant a bad review, but sometimes it is well called for. I spent over twenty years working in restaurants in the front of the house, most of the time as head waiter.  This means not only that I know good service, but also that I am more inclined than many to turn a blind eye to errors if the server is obviously “in the weeds,” or otherwise having a crappy night. I’ve been there, it sucks.

I have to speak out concerning my first visit to Pomodori’s this evening. The food was quite tasty, but the service was nothing short of abysmal. A spontaneous dinner out with some friends became a comedy of errors in extremely short order.

Sitting around for fifteen minutes waiting for a drink order is a bit excessive, but I’ve dealt with worse and still left a solid 20% as long as the rest of service went well. Such was not to be the case. One reason that a good waiter repeats your order back to you is in order to ensure its accuracy. This is especially true if the table is asking for changes to the dish, or “mods,” as most places call them. Our table had several mods, all of the simplest kind- add chicken, add prosciutto, etc. Nothing subtracted, no drastic rewrites of menu items. One would think that your average college student could get that, right?

No. Well over twenty minutes after placing our order the first entree arrived, accompanied by a pizza that turns out to be for a different table. Lonely it was as it sat, unaccompanied, on the broad and empty expanse of our table of six. Another twelve minutes go by. Then four more entrees arrive. One of them is a salad, not the pasta we ordered. It goes back and our party begins to dig in, sharing what is there. If you’re having trouble keeping up that is now four out of the six entrees that are on the table. Additionally, my Alfredo was suspiciously lacking in the chicken I had requested. Absolutely famished at this point I wrote it off and began to dig in.

Another fifteen or so minutes go by and the replacement for the salad, the Gorgonzola pizza we originally ordered, arrives. That still leaves us one down, a pizza that had still not arrived. I really should have called a manager over, but morbid curiosity had gotten the better of me I have to admit. I wanted to see just how far the quality of service would actually sink. You see, among the other annoyances the server only came by to refill our drinks once during our entire two hours there, when one of our party motioned to her after prolonged neglect.

The entire visit was filled with this sort of thing. The check had to be redone three different times, and it would have been more if I had not decided that my time was worth more than waiting another twenty minutes while a $2.00 addition of chicken got removed. It was the first time in over a decade I left without tipping. (I tip 20% for average service so you can imagine what this took.)

I want to close with a comment, so that it is fresh in your mind after reading this: The food, was wonderful. I really enjoyed the items that hit our table. All compliments to the chef,  still it would have been nice if there were more resemblance to the items we ordered, but it was great eating nonetheless.  Since I’m the new guy, only been in Cincy a year and a half, I’m still trying out restaurants. I have a feeling that despite the great food it will be a long time before I go to Pomodori’s rather than trying something new.

Service like that is something you remember.

-Loki, Founder and Publisher

Pomodori's Pizzeria and Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Image by Identity Photogr@phy, used under its Creative Commons license

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Aug 13, 2010 by

For the last 50 years or so, America has veered sharply away from her agrarian roots in favor of convenience.  Generations of wisdom lost, because our supermarkets offer us boundless plenty, regardless of season.  We enjoy culinary delights from every corner of the globe every month of the year.  It was not always thus, and it is highly likely that it will not be for too much longer.  It is not my intention to sermonize about Peak Oil.  I’m offering you a way to combat it.

The event I originally wrote this for, the Eco Go-Go, featured a fashion show highlighting locally-owned businesses, selling eco-friendly goods and services.  Now a bit about fashion – more specifically, about the phenomena of the fashion season:  Way back, when Louis XIV was trying to figure out a way to help his country’s struggling economy, he put a couple of fairly ingenious things in motion: first, his mercantilist administration significantly slowed the importing all textiles and textile supplies from other countries, to bolster the then-stagnant French textile businesses.  Then the brilliant marketing ploy – they encouraged these floundering fashion houses to market their goods based on the season in which they were intended to be worn.  This concept evolved into the two major fashion seasons – Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer. This allowed for clothiers to offer the newly-fashion-conscious public new stuff to buy twice a year, effectively doubling their profits and cementing the industry for centuries to come.

I am sure that many of you are in tune enough with fashion do’s and don’ts to be confident in how you dress year round.  Maybe you take great pride in being fashion-forward.  I managed a few retail clothing establishments in my day, I can tell you that there are plenty of people who are brand-loyal and put great importance on who makes the clothes they wear.  I am starting to see a trend of people who are as devoted to the source of their nourishment.  I challenge you to be as discerning with your food.  Maybe you are an avid label-reader at the supermarket, so I think you should also be as curious about where the food is coming from and when that food is in season.  Fact is, locally produced food, enjoyed in season, is of far greater quality than the alternative.

Our country’s current food production paradigm is based on the assumption that transporting food from a handful of fertile places to the rest of the planet will continue to be very cheap.  If our consumption follows its current trajectory – kiss those cheap Chilean sweet peppers and grapes goodbye.   Perhaps the current economic downturn, coupled with the need to seriously back off of our fossil fuel usage and the gaining popularity of the local foods movement will help us find a better balance.  Washington is working to help small-scale, startup urban farmers – to combat “food deserts.” Every day new articles appear about people turning abandoned lots into verdant food-producing oases.  Could this trend be part of the solution for the rampant joblessness in our country??  True, farming is not for everyone.   I have been selling produce from my own modest urban farm at Findlay Market for a little over a month now. Each market day, my sales improve.  Sometimes a person will comment on how my wares are a little “expensive.”  I remind them the food that I’ve grown did not have to be trucked across the continent, nor has it been sprayed with chemicals to hasten ripening or irradiated to retard spoilage.  They still buy my tomatoes.

Cheers –

Dark Martha

White Fox Farm

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