Community organizer Bing Hampton knows his audience. "Big Development's not gonna get their grubby paws on Alex's Tavern," he shouts into his trusty bullhorn. There's no reason to believe developers of any size are looking to acquire the Jackson Avenue institution, but that did not allay the concerns of roughly two-dozen Midtowners who waved signs with all-cap messages like "THE DIVE MUST SURVIVE," and answered back, "Hell no."
"We've started a GimmeGimme
fund to build a wall around this treasured drinking establishment," says Hampton, whose career in activism began when he organized protests to prevent a new Taco Bell from being built over the old Taco Bell that was built over the even older Taliesyn Ballroom
where British Punk band the Sex Pistols played on their disastrous 1978 American tour. Hampton says he's still sore about losing that fight but counts his campaign to prevent the Union Avenue Kroger from being built in Germantown
as a total win.
"I've shown the power of getting out in front of a problems that don't yet exist," Hampton told the crowd, recalling how he was shocked at first by news that his favorite Midtown bar, Zinnie's, was closing as the result of neighborhood gentrification. Then he was disgusted when he heard it probably had nothing to do with gentrification. Then he was dismayed when he learned that sometimes stories are complicated with many shifting perspectives and no discernible hero or villain.
"The big takeaway for me was, we've got to save Alex's," Hampton announced to even greater applause. "And Murphy's too," he added. "But not right now because you've got to start somewhere and Alex's seems doable. Besides, the Murphy's guy heckled my band once, so whatever, dude."
Hampton told Fly on the Wall he'd already raised $80 toward erecting "a substantial
fence," but won't be able to move forward with his multi-phase plan until he hears back from tavern owner, Rocky Kasaftes, whom he's yet to contact.
"We want to do a crocodile moat too, or maybe a snake pit," Hampton said, in his address. "Snakes. Snakes. Snakes," the crowd chanted.
"It would be nice to see a developer eaten by either crocodiles or snakes," says former Midtown resident and dive bar enthusiast Chelsea Lamar. "I miss all these shithole places I used go to before I moved," she adds. Lamar, who swears "shithole" is a term of endearment, now lives in Cordova. "Even if I can't patronize any of these bars anymore, it comforts me just knowing that they're there," she says.
Yes, this is a parody. Didn't you see the black and yellow tab up top?