Abbot Kinney Blvd.

First Friday, for Who?

By CJ Gronner

On my last First Friday I realized this: There are way too many food trucks, they are so marginally talented and they need to drive to Bakersfield and stay there. And also, people of Brentwood, Santa Monica and the Palisades, PLEASE NOTE: you are not cool for just coming to Venice one Friday of the month. Love & Hugs as always…”

So read the Facebook status of one of my Venice pals the day after last month’s First Friday. Yep, I think it’s time for we citizens of Venice to have another little Pow Wow about it all. What started out as a thing to help out Abbot Kinney merchants at a slow-ish time, and have a cool hang for the locals to mingle and enjoy each other as they strolled along the Boulevard, has now become a bit of a monster that no locals seem to want to participate in.

August’s First Friday was a madhouse. I helped out at my friend’s store (Firefly) that night, so I was really immersed in it this time, rather than looking down upon it all from another friend’s balcony, which has been the norm recently. The entire part of the evening that we stayed open after normal non-First Friday hours, I recognized not one single soul from Venice – and I know a lot of people. Not ONE.

When you ask Venice people these days if you’ll see them on First Friday, the general response is “No way, I can’t stand that mess,” and it has actually propelled many of us AWAY from Venice (Helpful Hint: that would be a good day to try and lure us East of Lincoln, East side pals!).

And it really is a mess, literally and figuratively. A real mess, as people leave their food truck garbage everywhere (my bike basket is especially attractive to them for that purpose). A mess of people blocking the sidewalks, as it took me 20 minutes to get from locking Firefly’s back door to get to my bike parked in front. A mess of traffic, as 40 (!) Food Trucks (the most ever, I believe) lined the streets, and a long queue more of them waited their turn on Milwood to turn on to AKB. It’s gotten to where it’s really just kind of gross, and not many locals want to participate in that.

People that live in Venice chose their home for a reason, generally, and that is that it is VENICE … not Santa Monica, not the Marina, but Venice, and all that goes along with that. We don’t want Abbot Kinney to be another cheesy Promenade. We like to support local businesses. We like to park somewhere near our homes. We like to ride our bikes or walk without a hassle. We like to recognize SOMEONE as we go about our fun.

More and more shops and businesses on the street are talking about not staying open for First Fridays, as it doesn’t seem to be that profitable. The permanent restaurants on the Boulevard are all great, and busy on Fridays anyway. With such a glut of Food Trucks that night, and locals completely avoiding it all, who really benefits from the thing – other than the night trippers that want to feel all cool and Venice for an evening, I mean?

Again, I don’t have the answers, but we need to discuss it all, before the whole thing turns ugly. There’s already anger with the food trucks, the crowds, the garbage, the parking, etc … and that’s not cool. I just want my friends and neighbors to be happy, and there hasn’t been too much happiness (that I’ve heard of) with the whole First Friday deal. On the other hand, it’s merely one night a month, and I guess we can all stomach that … I guess.  Most seem to think it’s a passing phase/phenomenon, and we can just ride it out. People will find some other place to go litter and Twitter and get drunk soon enough. Time will tell…

It’s a good time to talk about Venice Cityhood, too. With independence from Los Angeles, we’d be more free to sort out what’s best for us as a city, and as a people. FREE – that’s a big, big part of why I chose to live here, to feel free to live however I want to, with like sorts that also greatly value their freedom. That’s why this paper is called The FREE Venice Beachhead.  It’s the core value, I believe, of Venice.

So let’s talk about all of it… First Fridays, supporting local business and the best ways to do that, if Cityhood is a real possibility that has support and benefits everyone, litter, parking and anything else you want to talk about. Write to The Beachhead, or stop me on the street Monday-Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, since I probably won’t be seeing any of you at First Friday.