I went to The Lounge underneath the Cosmic Cantina in Durham last Friday expecting the usual night of good Mexican food, and most importantly, really good music. I returned home in disgust. Somewhere around 9 or 10 o'clock, a big disturbance (or a bloodless fight, whichever way you look at it) broke out between some neighborhood white supremacists and a couple of other people who were standing outside. Apparently, some racial slurs where thrown around and there was an antagonistic display of the Confederate flag, which was very displeasing to some people in attendance, and someone got roughed up. The police arrived in full force, and spent the rest of the night keeping kids from standing outside the Lounge.
This is just an example of a growing problem for teenagers in the area. Kids really don't have a lot of places to go, so when they find somewhere accessible, affordable and parent-approved, somewhere like the Lounge, they jump on the opportunity. What that means is you have tons of kids in one area who have no reason to be there other than passing the time. Of course there are going to be problems.
This was demonstrated last Friday. Two groups of kids were at the Cantina with nothing better to do than fight. They weren't there for the music, and they weren't there for the food, either. They were there to hang out, because with all the kids who go there for no reason, that's what the Lounge has become, a hang-out. It's more a social scene now than a music scene. And it's not restricted to a few kids, either. Dozens of kids go there and sit outside and talk or smoke. It's gotten to the point where there are more kids standing outside than there are inside listening to music.
It's apparent that the problem isn't with how the Lounge is run. The Lounge manager is a guy named Ken Vint, who is eccentric but very friendly, and he knows how to take care of business. I talked to him in passing the last time I was there, and even he's been getting frustrated with the number of kids who come to the Lounge just to hang out. He always has to go around telling everyone to be careful because ABC police are always snooping around the Cantina, upstairs and downstairs. Every weekend someone's mom seems to call the cops about seeing underage drinking there (which to this day I have not witnessed at the Cantina). It seems like they're just looking for a reason to shut the place down.
What's such a shame about all this is that there are some incredibly talented young musicians who play at the Lounge. And it's great for kids because there's no cover charge and the place is generally hassle-free. But its value is lost when kids can't go there because of fights or ABC cops. We need more places like the Lounge. And we don't need any more of those kids who don't appreciate what we've got.