What about Bob?

Reno mayor Bob Cashell recently advanced an idea for a six-month moratorium on new bars, liquor stores, convenience stores and tattoo shops.

The Reno Gazette-Journal quoted him as saying: “Downtown has turned in tattoo shops, bars and liquor stores in every building. I want a six-month moratorium to see what we can do. It’s all over town, not just in the redevelopment area. We’ve got to come up with some rules and regulations.”

Cashell has such a peculiar idea of what this city has become. It’s a “generation gap,” to use an obsolete term. It seems symptomatic of the older generation not really understanding where the world is heading.

Downtown Reno is not, and has never been, a wholesome place. From the Stockade, Reno’s downtown brothel that closed in 1942, to illegal gambling halls, to mobsters, to free-alcohol-fueled gambling, to crank deals on Virginia Street, it has always been on the penumbra of decent, always taking advantage of people’s worst inclinations. Cashell himself has owned several casinos, including the downtown Horseshoe Club, which closed in 1995.

Many of us love and appreciate its seediness, like we love its various facelifts over the years. But the problem with downtown Reno is not tattoo parlors or bars or even take-out stores; they’re just filling in the crevices of failed businesses, and they’re satisfying the public demand.

Tattoo parlors are not seedy. That’s purely an ancient perception of what tattoo parlors used to be before tattoos hit the mainstream. The shops are the manifestation of a changing culture. Owners are working artists, the premises are inspected regularly, and they’re impeccably clean. And Reno doesn’t approach the numbers of tattoo parlors that more sophisticated cities like Miami, Portland, Las Vegas, and San Francisco have.

Our city has spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars promoting and building an arts district and a recreational downtown (as opposed to a shopping district). Tattoos are art, and tattooers are artists. Can’t our mayor see that something’s actually working downtown?

People who get tattoos, these days, are the exact market Reno needs to attract to ensure that we don’t have any more closed buildings on Virginia Street. They’re 20-30-40-somethings and, guess what, they like to party. That’s why those are the types of businesses that are opening around town. Government shouldn’t interfere in the marketplace with protectionist policies to help the casinos. Reno city government needs to embrace those open businesses and figure out ways to increase the tax base with them. Casinos also should figure out how to cater to them, maybe by opening high-end tattoo parlors of their own. Those tattooed types are the very people who will be using the world’s tallest climbing wall when CommRow opens in the defunct Fitzgerald’s.

Come on, Bob, it’s time to embrace the present and develop a vision for the future. We want tattoo artists and tattooed people and nightlife central downtown. Those are the kinds of businesses that pay for police and fire, which makes a better community for everyone.