Thursday, February 22, 2007

Westminster Ink: A Tale of Two Cities...

As I'm sure many readers are aware, this month Westminster banned tattoo parlors from opening in its downtown historic district because, to quote from a Baltimore Examiner story, "'Our Main Street is a historic Main Street that is quaint and has small boutiques that are family-oriented,' Council Member Gregory Pecoraro said. 'This is part of what we are trying to create.'"

There are so many things wrong with that statement, I'm not even completely sure where to begin - so I'm just going to choose a random place and work my way through the issues.

Let's start with this concept - the City of Frederick, which, by all accounts, has experienced something of a Renaissance over the course of the last decade, is very family friendly. The city hosts four tattoo parlors either in, or on the edge of the Historic District - three are within a block of each other. The three within a block of each other are in a block and a half stretch that until recently has struggled to retain businesses. In the last twenty months the area has welcomed three new retail presences, two new restaurants, and a salon.

In previous discussions I have had with the director of Westminster's Department of Economic Development (when working for the Gazette), Stanley Ruchlewicz said that the hopes are that Westminster can experience the same success Frederick has experienced in revitalizing its downtown. For the record, Ruchlewicz was against this ban.

Let's take a look at the concept of "family oriented" from both a financial and a social standpoint. Sure, the tattoo parlor is not exactly the first place that most Americans are looking to bring their children, but you have to look at what a destination business does for other businesses.

Tattoos are not short work, and college age people through their mid-twenties will often go with friends to get their tattoos - the friend might not be getting one, but you often get the moral supporter along for the ride. These people spend significant time in these areas and will often spend other money at the local bars and restaurants. There's the financial, now for the social.

When I was growing up in the 1970's and 1980's there was a certain perception about people with tattoos. They were worn by the rebellious, the fringe, the dangerous. They were a warning sign telling the middle and upper-classes "beware of me, I'm the boogeyman." With everyone and their mother getting them now of days, the idea that people with tattoos are not the "family-oriented" types that Westminster wants to attract, then maybe it would be for the best that the tattooed freaks don't visit Westminster.

By the way - that dragonfly on the left is on my wife and I designed it for her.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

This Weekend's Big Event in Frederick

Frederick area blog hoppers have probably already seen the listing from the Frederick Winterfest over at Frednet, so I'll keep this short.

The Winterfest is this Saturday at the Talley Rec Center on Bentz Street. Doors open at 5:00 PM, tickets are $20.00 per person and includes two beers or two glasses of wine, and live music. Barley and Hops, Brewers Alley, and Wild Goose/Flying Dog will be represented at the little soiree, and food can be purchased from Hempen Hill BBQ Bar and Grill, a Hagerstown-based pub.

I will be attending the event, covering it for The Mid-Atlantic Brewing News.

For the beauty pageant set, the annual Miss Frederick pageant is taking place this Saturday at Frederick Community College. The event is scheduled for 7:00 PM in the Jack Kussmaul Theater.

Tickets are available by phoning 301-845-4893, or can be purchased at the door. The box office will open at 6 p.m. and tickets are $15 each, which includes a program book.

On a sad note, Jim's Liquors in Antietam Plaza was burned down under what, right now, appear to be a set of murky circumstances. The conflagration took with it a number of other businesses in that resided in the building.

Initial reports are that the incident stemmed from a botched robbery attempt, but friends and family of the would-be robber deny that this was the case, citing a personal relationship with the liquor store owner. Curiously, the liquor store owner, who is supposedly the one who contacted the police in the first place (or whatever employee was working there at the time), has not corroborated this telling. Also, and I will be quite honest about this, when your nickname is "Menace" and you're not a five year old blond haired boy, it seriously puts intentions into question.

My condolences do go out to the family, and I understand the instinct to defend one of your own, but there are things that just don't add up in the family's defense of "Menace."

Monday, February 19, 2007

A Little Word on The Departed...

Caught Best Pic nominee The Departed at Holiday Cinemas this past weekend and it was definitely worth the price of admission. That's saying a lot considering I don't generally like Leonardo DiCaprio. If you like a good gang flick, this fits the bill.

If you have a problem with violent films...well, you're probably not going to go to a Scorsese film anyway.

With strong performances all around, it's difficult to point to one that outshines any of the others. Damon and DiCaprio work as opposite sides of the same coin. Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg were excellent as the men trying to put Jack Nicholson away, and Jack, as always, is Jack.

The film is 151 minutes, but moves much faster than that. Currently the movie is available on DVD, however, if you're a fan of Martin Scorsese then its worth your time to catch this on the big screen.

Daytrippin Culpeper

Approximately an hour and forty minutes away, Culpeper makes a good meeting point for the day if one has friends or relatives coming from points south, but doesn't currently have enough to merit a day trip.

One of the town's problems in its quaint historic district is the lack of restaurants that are actually open for lunch. It's prize-jewel, the well reviewed Foti's Italian restaurant, is open for lunch during the week, but is not on Saturday - a common issue amongst the finer establishments in downtown.

For that reason, the It's About Thyme cafe does very good business during the Saturday lunch rush. Don't get me wrong, the meal I had was excellent - fettuccine Alfredo with sun-dried tomatoes followed by a flowerless chocolate torte - but there were constantly people waiting to be seated due to the fact that there were few other dining options.

The main drag in the historic district was lined with small boutiques, but none of the shops were out of the ordinary. The Cameleer was worth a visit, but was reminiscent of Ten Thousand Villages, and there was a nice Irish shop that carried the typical items for that sort of store.

Culpeper might work better as a base of operations - the sort of place where you get a room at a bed and breakfast in order to visit the attractions that are within half an hour of the location, including the multiple wineries and equestrian farms.