SANTA FE, N.M. — Forget about nightlife. Let’s talk about the Information Superhighway.
Well, maybe that’s a little extreme. Young people still are grousing about Santa Fe rolling up its sidewalks after 9 p.m., but a gathering at the Jean Cocteau Cinema earlier this week gave a glimpse of a lot of other issues that make this the City Indifferent for them.
Jobs. Affordability. Transportation.
And then there’s the annoyance of paying the same rate for Internet service as is charged in Albuquerque, but getting half the speed of data transmission.
“We have like a Third World Internet!” said Shannon Murphy, a founding member of the After Hours Alliance. When she has webcam meetings with people around the country, she said, she has to keep apologizing for all the times the system blinks out.
So that right there can be a barrier to getting the good-paying jobs that rely on fast, reliable data transmission – jobs that might appeal to young people.
And it might explain why when Zane Fischer, a new media expert and founder of Anagram design studio, asked if there was a coder in the audience whom he could hire tomorrow, no one raised their hand. “We are not attracting that kind of talent,” he said.
Then there are all the rules that frustrate young people with ideas, along with what can be seen as a hidebound resistance to innovation and a city code that doesn’t always fit some newer concepts.
“When you want to do something, it’s like, sorry, there’s a rule. There are rules about rules,” said Daniel Werwath, a consultant on affordable housing and community development. “Yes, come here, except don’t drink beer in the park. It’s like we’re actively trying to make more rules to make it less fun.
“A small group of people in this town has a hobby of attending City Council meetings to make new rules.”
When someone wanted to hold a festival in a park, rules forbade it and the effort was denied, he said, generating a feeling like “Dude, I’ll just move to Portland.”
Presumably, he was talking about the hip Oregon metropolitan center and not the city in Maine. As a matter of fact, that city’s name was mentioned more than once as a magnet for young people.
Unfortunately, when it comes to comparing Santa Fe to the Oregon youth mecca, one fact has to be acknowledged. Within the city limits, we have just short of 70,000 people, with something under 150,000 in the whole county. Portland has an estimated 600,000 and more than 2.3 million in the metro area.
That alone is going to make a big difference in employment and entertainment opportunities.
And while openness to new ideas might have something to do with Portland’s sparkle, nightlife indeed may be an attraction.
George R.R. Martin, who owns the Jean Cocteau and writes the novels that gave rise to the popular “Game of Thrones” television series, said he hosted John Hodgman from The Daily Show for an appearance here. When the comedian wanted to get a meal after the show, “he had to go to Denny’s.”
“I don’t know how to encourage our restaurants to stay open after 9 p.m.,” Martin said.
But here’s where you get to the chicken-egg dilemma. Do restaurants not get business after that hour because they don’t stay open, or do they close by then because they don’t get enough business to stay open?
A clue to that answer might come this weekend with Night Wave, a roster of late-night music, food, movies and shuttle transportation tonight and tomorrow scheduled at various venues downtown. Will restaurants that agreed to stay open late get enough customers?
And we can keep an eye on the success, or lack of it, of Skylight, a new lounge that has opened at the site of the former Milagro nightclub. It already has booked a series of acts through Heath Concerts, with Eliza Gilkyson on Sunday, The English Beat on Aug. 22 and the Livers of Steel Tour on Aug. 23.
That leads us to another nightlife issue.
Murphy said Corazón, a bar and music venue on South Guadalupe Street, closed a few years ago because of “high real estate prices” and the difficulty of affording a liquor license. Those licenses, capped under New Mexico law, cost $500,000 – or about $3,000 per month if you lease someone else’s license, she said.
But when she advocated more reasonable prices and the cap removed from liquor licenses, Martin, who had recently shelled out a half-million dollars for a liquor license at the Jean Cocteau, pointed out that he didn’t want to lose the value of his investment. Every license-holder in the state would oppose that change, he said.
In turn, he pointed to another frustration. He didn’t really want a full liquor license, he said. He wanted a beer and wine license, which costs about $1,500. But a beer and wine license can go only to an establishment that makes 60 percent or more of its revenue from the sale of food.
“I don’t sell that much popcorn,” Martin quipped.