Of course this happened in Philadelphia. It’s a derpfest: an immigrant from Uganda running a dive bar and getting behind on his taxes, yuppies moving into the neighborhood and then expressing shock, shock! that there’s a dive bar in their part of West Philadelphia, probably some selective law and code enforcement, and accusations of racism.
No party to this mess is holy. Just look at who they are: Noel “I want to pay my taxes if I have the money” Karasanyi; a bunch of whiny SWPL agitators who colonized Karasanyi’s neighborhood on the bizarre expectation that, being in West Philadelphia, it would be clean and orderly; the Philadelphia Police, Streets, Licenses and Inspections, and Revenue Departments; the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and its investigative arm in the State Police. The Karasanyi bar empire is a tar baby; all who touch it will be licking sticky off their fingers for years to come, and it will be just as pretty a sight as the New 3rd World Lounge. This is high quality, multilevel sleaze in one of America’s most delightfully vulgar cities.
My guess is that racism is only one of two major components to this donnybrook. The race of Karasanyi’s clientele must put the white neighbors on edge, but they’d be awfully sore about the local Irish bruisers if they had instead colonized White Kensington and found themselves trying to abate their dive bars. I know some raunchy Irish girls from the Northeast, and believe me, they are NOT bashful about pissing in the streets. It’s just one of those things that seems reasonable and expedient at the time, kind of like decking one’s boyfriend because he was being a lying cheating douchebag again. These things are a lot more reliable than access to toilets in Philadelphia’s rundown neighborhoods, but let’s not dwell on structural contributors to the filth. It’s obviously less gross when bougies do that kind of thing in Old City and Manayunk. For they, and as a consequence their favorite clubs, have lots of money, a solvent much more universal than urine.
This Karasanyi/Spruce Hill Association spat isn’t just about racial fears and animosities. It’s also about abatement of the poors. The Spruce Hill activists bought into a very depressed and dilapidated housing market in a very poor neighborhood, knowing full well that their new property was in the midst of a miles-wide swath of decay and dysfunction stretching into the suburbs (Karasanyi’s current hometown, Yeadon, is pretty crappy itself), and now they’re sore that Karasanyi’s dive bars are getting in the way of their efforts to inflate their real estate prices. If anyone in that part of the roaring forties had adverse possession of the neighborhood, it was Karasanyi and his clients. They were there first. The Johnny-come-lately SWPL aren’t happy about this, but colonists never are happy when there are natives squatting on their land.
Here’s why I say that this spat isn’t just about race. Some family friends who lived in East Falls at the time were involved in a prolonged effort to abate their own local nuisance bar, the Four Horsemen. As far as I know, every party to the fight over the Four Horsemen was white, except for Michael Nutter. Nutter was drawn in because he was then the city councilor representing East Falls. Ed Rendell and Arlen Specter were drawn in as powerful politicians who happened to live just up the hill, in a much nicer part of East Falls. All three of them came down on the Four Horsemen and demanded that its owner clean house so that its customers weren’t spilling out at 2:30 am, yelling obscenities at the top of their lungs, leaving trash all over the neighborhood, kicking in the windows of strangers’ cars because they were mad at their girlfriends, that kind of thing. Nutter, Rendell, Specter and the PLCB couldn’t do anything about Lunchbox, the dimwitted neighbor kid who stumbled into cars all the time when he played football in the streets, but they were able to scare some sense into the Four Horsemen, and into its protectors in the Philadelphia Police Department’s 39th District.
Kind of. Your activist friends never had as much fun with “intersectionality” as the 39th District did when its notoriously crooked cops were hired to moonlight at a bar named after four of their former colleagues who had been drummed out of the department for official corruption and brutality. The real Four Horsemen were some of the PPD’s worst. These guys were so bad that they went to prison for police misconduct, and were subsequently honored with their very own dive bar.
One of the police commanders who was assigned to the 39th District in the midst of this mess, a Captain Glenn, tried to nip the snitching against the Four Horsemen in the bud by using a Neighborhood Watch volunteer contact information sheet to call one of our family friends at home and harass him for bringing state authorities into the fray. It seems that Captain Glenn wasn’t so much in the pocket of the Four Horsemen as he was annoyed by the barrage of correspondence from and meetings with people more powerful than he over a nuisance bar. So he got this friend of ours on the phone and menacingly told him, “I’m getting heat from above, and I do not like getting heat from above.”
Our friend put the Captain in his place: “You listen to me: I’m a lieutenant in the United States Army, and you DO NOT talk to a lieutenant in the United States Army that way!” The commanding officer of one of the city’s dirtiest police districts was reduced to gibberish by a guy he was trying to intimidate over the phone. Philadelphia is a city of piss and vinegar.
Vinegar in its citizens’ blood.
Piss in its subway concourses.