Hype Cat Opening

The HopCat opening is being treated by both the media and by some East Lansing officials -- Triplett, of course, front and center -- as a big event and cause for celebration.

Obviously the owner wants to get free publicity to promote his business. However, I think, as a community, we need to be concerned about the role of the press, which certainly has the right to accept paid advertising for a business opening and to cover the opening as an objective news story, should there be anything newsworthy. But anticipatory press coverage of a bar opening as a public event goes beyond journalism to promotion, and as a society we need a press that understands the difference.

The role of East Lansing officials is equally or more disturbing. Okay, we are used to officials cutting ribbons for private business openings in their communities. But that is a far cry from actively participating in a circus atmosphere promoting a new business that is in active competition with existing businesses. And, in this case, what is being promoted is a bar that sells high alcohol beer in large glasses in the middle of the notorious downtown East Lansing bar crawl. I still intend, when the dust settles, to hold official accountable for providing empirical proof Hop Cat is bringing a different clientele downtown than existing bars that serve craft beer.

(My craft beer consultants inform me it is an acquired taste and that real craft beer connoisseurs -- the more mature, upscale, market -- will not frequent a place with flat beer, which is almost inevitable with 100 beers on tap, basically a promotional stunt. I suspect, however, that all the flavored craft beers, like wine coolers and umbrella drinks before them, are intended to cover up the hops and bitters and encourage consumption by less sophisticated drinkers, more interested in quantity of alcohol than quality of taste.)

Remember, Hop Cat is subsidized by taxpayers, because it is located in a building that has been given substantial tax breaks, as well as enabled by direct expenditures by the city for infrastructure, much of which we pay for every time we water the tomatoes or flush the toilet, after the bait and switch with the development agreement/brownfield plan. Also, remember downtown is only paying for public safety at 1991 levels, because it is a DDA zone, even though the bar crawl causes disproportionate public safety expenditures.

I have also heard from multiple sources -- I cannot confirm these are independent sources -- that there is Playboy centerfold wallpaper in the Hop Cat bathroom (I presume, the little boys bathroom, but in this day and age, who knows?). Should anyone actually choose to go into Hop Cat, confirmation would be helpful. If this is so, even recognizing there are different attitudes about Playboy since the high days of Gloria Steinem feminism, the involvement of city official in hyping Hop Cat would be even more inappropriate.

Eliot Singer

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