This year’s event would have been the fourth. Mayor John D’Amico, who conceived Go Go Dancer Appreciation Day with Councilmember John Duran, said he had hoped to see the businesses in the area that benefitted from it establish a business improvement district (BID). He also noted that some of the bars that were previously involved in the go go event have faced a change in circumstances since last year. Among the changes in the area is the sale of Eleven Bar and Restaurant and of Rage nightclub. “It didn’t seem like it was going to come together very easily,” D’Amico said.
D’Amico said that whether the city should sponsor such events is part of a bigger question about its role in economic development in area. Other areas of the city, such as the Sunset Strip and the Design District, which encompasses business on Robertson and Beverly boulevard and Melrose Avenue, have formed business improvement districts. The city levies an assessment on the businesses in those areas which it then gives to the business improvement districts. The BIDs use the money to promote their respective areas.
West Hollywood has spent $65,000 over the past eight years in an unsuccessful effort to organize a BID in the Boystown area. It engaged Civitas, a Sacramento consulting firm, and for a brief period the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to convince local businesses to support the BID. Under state law, a BID can only be established if businesses whose combined assessments equal at least 51 percent of the proposed BID budget agree to it. The proposed BID would have extended from near the intersection of Holloway Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard on the east to Doheny Drive and Santa Monica on the west. The effort to get support for a BID has been complicated, according to some area business owners, because of the intense competition among local bar owners there and their unwillingness to pay to promote the area.
“Ultimately, that’s what’s missing from that area,” D’Amico said. “We don’t have any kind of organized voice that is leading from that district.” However, he said, there are meetings coming up to look at the likelihood of whether a BID or a other business association can be will formed.
Don Zuidema, an owner of LASC, the clothing retailer, was part of a group that tried to launch a BID in the area. Zuidema said there hadn’t been enough support from area businesses to launch a BID –probably because business owners were feeling the effects of the economic downturn–but that he thinks the idea will be revisited. In the meantime, he said, some of the original members of a steering committee working on the project are looking at other options, including forming a more informal business association that will work to promote the area.
“We have decided to continue to meet, and we are doing so with the support of both the city and the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce,” he said.
D’Amico counts the go go event itself—which last year partnered with a Tom of Finland art exhibition—as a success.
“I think it was lot of fun, and people had a good time,” he said.