If you live in a city, any city in any part of America, you've probably bemoaned gentrification at one time or another. On paper, maybe the idea of improving neighborhoods isn't a terrible thing, but unfortunately in practice this typically involves landlords jacking up rents until the underprivileged and those who serve them are driven out -- with older buildings sometimes razed altogether -- in favor of new, expensive condos and businesses. With gentrification often comes the wiping clean of culture and history in the name of giving hipster shitheads new lofts to move into and dozens of new places to get their Starbucks fix on.
For the most part fighting gentrification is a lost cause because by its very nature the battle is between people who don't have much in the way of money or resources and people whose money and resources -- and therefore their power -- are practically limitless. If you want to try to stand in the way of rampant development, you're gonna have to get creative -- and that's exactly what the owners of Bar 107, one of L.A.'s last truly legendary dives, are doing right now. This past weekend was supposed to mark the end of the self-described shithole, as it was just the latest old school establishment being forced to succumb to the demands of a lease-holder who has gentrification cash in his eyes. But as it turns out, Bar 107 is choosing not to go quietly into that good night.
In a post on the place's Facebook page that reads more like a call to arms for all of those who've found themselves victims of "progress," bar owners Brian Traynam and Vee Delgadillo say they're standing up not only for their own rights but in defense of a downtown Los Angeles that's affordable and hipster-free -- a place that's increasingly becoming a thing of the past. Here's the message in its entirety:
THE OWNERS OF BAR 107 WISH TO THANK YOU FOR SHOWING UP FOR THE FINAL NIGHT OF THE GREATEST SHITHOLE ON EARTH. IT'S BEEN AN HONOR TO FEED YOUR ADDICTION AND BAD DECISIONS OVER THE PAST TEN YEARS.
THOSE YEARS HAVE BROUGHT A LOT OF CHANGE TO THE STREETS OF DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES AND THE LOS ANGELES BAR SCENE. LIKE MANY CITIES BEFORE IT, EXPENSIVE LOFTS AND CONDOS HAVE REPLACED AFFORDABLE APARTMENTS. WITH IT CAME BLAZERS INSTEAD OF T-SHIRTS AND MIXOLOGISTS INSTEAD OF BARTENDERS. BARS WITH PERSONALITY AND REASONABLE DRINK PRICES HAVE BEEN REPLACED BY STERILE, SAFE SHITHOLES WITH RIDICULOUS PRICES AND EVEN MORE RIDICULOUS ICE CUBES.
MANY LONGTIME RESIDENTS HAVE BEEN PUSHED OUT BY GREEDY LANDLORDS OR THEIR NEW DOUCHEBAG NEIGHBORS. THE OWNER OF THIS BUILDING HAS DECIDED TO FOLLOW SUIT. OPEN YET ANOTHER SHITTY, EXPENSIVE BAR FOR THE NEW YUPPIES THAT HAVE MOVED INTO DOWNTOWN LA. WE ARE NOT GOING TO LET THAT HAPPEN.
THE DECISION WAS MADE EARLIER TODAY THAT WE ARE NOT LEAVING 107 4TH STREET. WE WILL REMAIN OPEN AND CONTINUE TO PAY RENT. IF THE LANDLORD DOESN'T WANT TO GIVE US A NEW LEASE, HE CAN TAKE US TO COURT. UNDER CALIFORNIA LAW IT IS ILLEGAL FOR HIM TO ENTER THIS PROPERTY WHILE WE ARE OCCUPYING IT. IT IS ILLEGAL FOR HIM TO CHANGE THE LOCKS. WE'LL REMAIN OPEN UNTIL THE STATE MARSHALL SHOWS UP AND TELLS US TO GET THE FUCK OUT. LET YOUR FRIENDS KNOW BAR 107 LIVES ON. WE'RE STILL OPEN FOR BUSINESS SO SEE YOU TOMORROW AND EVERY FUCKING DAY AFTER THAT. #OccupyBar107"
Now make no mistake: Bar 107 probably isn't going to withstand any legal challenge that comes its way, but one of the great things about being on the bottom is that you don't have much to lose. There's no downside to going down fighting. And by turning any eviction into a spectacle the owners are drawing attention to how many great old hangouts have been lost in L.A. -- and elsewhere -- over the past couple of years to greedy landlords and the apparent need to replace the authentic with a surreal, overpriced replica of it.
Somebody had to take a stand, no matter how futile a gesture it may seem. Besides, it's the punk rock thing to do.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, circa 2007, standing outside Bar 107