EDITORIAL: Don't be stodgy, York City Council

The York Dispatch Editorial Board
Keystone Kidspace founders announced a $6 million capital campaign during a press event at the York Armory Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, to transform the building into an experiential learning center. Construction is slated to start this summer with an opening date of summer 2020. Bill Kalina photo

A children's museum and a nightclub can coexist just fine in downtown York. 

Jessica Brubaker's planned Keystone Kidspace children's museum isn't at issue. Nor should it be.

This past week, the not-for-profit's fundraising campaign was rolled out with fanfare. Developers are about $1 million shy of their goal, they said, of having the required cash to rehab the former York Armory. 

Sounds like a good deal for downtown, right? It would be. Another draw is precisely what York's once-blighted core needs, especially one that revives a formerly grand structure. And "family friendly" attractions are all the rage among the moneyed middle class.

Like the former Armory, the old Citizens Bank is in need of a cash infusion and new purpose. And, this past week, two brothers brought such a pitch to York City Council.

But the nightclub proposed by Matt and Sean Landis, owners of Fat Daddy's on Market Street in Springettsbury Township, only works if the City Council grants it a liquor license. The brothers are in the process of purchasing the building. And they've said the project would pump $4 million into downtown.

And yet, on Wednesday, York City Council struggled to even muster the votes to hold a hearing for the brothers' request. After some groaning, City Council members voted 3-2 to schedule the hearing, not a great sign for the would-be nightclub owners.

Make no mistake, City Council members are right to do their due diligence and inquire about the number of police calls to the Springettsbury location. Yet the struggle to even schedule a hearing — generally a procedural formality — doesn't bode well for the Landis brothers.

City Council President Henry Nixon distressed about the noise that a live-music venue would create. Others fretted about the rabble such a place would draw.

For whatever reason, York City Council seems intent on missing the big picture.

Downtown York has come a long way in recent years. It now touts new restaurants and cosmopolitan bars. To the city's credit, it's done a yoeman's job shepherding cash to downtown York. 

But any vibrant downtown appeals to a wide range of people, offering everything from the aforementioned "family friendly" daytime activity centers to the very type of club about which City Council members are now wringing their hands.

Nixon, for example, argued that the thumping beats might adversely affect the city's efforts to draw renters and homeowners back to York's core. It also might be the case — and it undoubtedly is for some — that the very type of person who decides to move to a city center is, in fact, seeking some action. Otherwise, they'd move to some sleepy suburban cul-de-sac where the excitement begins and ends with the annual neighborhood barbecue.

For centuries, societies have sought a balance between a boozy good time and some semblance of order. But York City Council risks exposing itself as downright hostile to businesses of which its members don't personally approve, should they scuttle the Landis brothers' plans. 

They risk driving out significant investment in a historic building. They risk signaling that certain types of people who enjoy certain types of music aren't welcome in downtown York.

They risk being square.

And there's no greater indictment of a community whose economic future hinges on being considered young and hip.