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Published: Friday, 1/10/2003

It's a jungle down there

IT'S unfortunate that eviction has become a possibility for a couple of downtown nightclubs that opened just over two years ago with so much optimism. Given their proximity to the new Fifth Third Field and the convention center, they should have thrived.

But ultimately, the neighborhood may be better off without the Jungle and Tabu, located on the ground-floor of the renovated former Commodore Perry Hotel.

Shortly after the Jungle opened as Banana Joe's in October, 2000, problems began. Meant to attract a young professional crowd, it brought in rowdies and underage drinkers. There were liquor violations. Two bouncers were stabbed. Drunks roamed the halls of upstairs residential areas at will, to the understandable dismay of residents.

What happened in these venues seems to be the fate of establishments that cater to the rowdier elements of a younger crowd, a group sometimes given to irresponsible, uncouth, and occasionally violent behavior. These are the same types who contributed to the demise of music venues on the East Side's Main Street.

The Commodore Perry locales were also underfinanced. The principals racked up nearly $20,000 in back rent. Reason enough to be bounced.

If eviction occurs, and that is not a certainty, one upside could be a new tenant for 13,000 feet of prime ground-floor space downtown for a bar/restaurant/entertainment center, alone or in some combination.

Several other new establishments that opened in the warehouse district to take advantage of the ballpark seem to be doing well and continue to operate during the baseball off-season.

If eviction happens, the mayor and his development staff should work with the Smallridge Co., which owns the building and is itself behind on its debts, to see that the next tenant is one that will fit.

This building, with its downtown living spaces, must be kept viable with the help of financially sound and market-savvy commercial tenants. Prime property represents prime opportunity.

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