For most of the Café Europa supporters in Melvin Municipal Building Tuesday night, it was the first Greensboro City Council meeting they had ever been to.
They filled the pews at 5:30 sharp, with printouts of the Café Europa icon: a man in a bartender’s apron holding a glass of wine in one hand and hoisting the bottle in the other all part of Jeffrey Barbour’s Europa-dope scheme, the purpose of which was to give Europa a fighting shot at retaining its lease in the Cultural Arts Center, but also to expose some of the public-private sausage-making in the city, a dish for which many citizens are losing their taste.
Watch video of the city council meeting here.
It’s one thing to sound off in a barroom filled with your compatriots, quite another to take the podium before council and talk tough, even for a handsome fool like Barbour, who is my friend.
I’m trying to stay agnostic on the Café Europa deal, but it’s tough. These are my friends: owner Jake Pucilowski and John Rudy before him, most of the staff and half of the patrons. Barbour and I worked the bar together at Bert’s Seafood Grille 15 years ago.
And I love Europa. Always have. It’s the closest thing to a media bar that this city has, and there are times that I think it is one of the only places in town that makes sense.
That was a recurring theme among the speakers from the floor, including Barbour, Katei Cranford and a dime’s worth of longtime locals, one of whom made a most salient point to council: “You’re subsidizing things all the time. If you’re subsidizing Café Europa, you’re subsidizing so my wife and me can go out to dinner.”
They appealed to the heartstrings, yes, they leveled accusations and named names, because in their eyes, there’s something not quite right about all of this.
Before Puciklowski spoke, Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Councilmember Justin Outling had to leave the room. As board members of Downtown Greensboro Parks Inc., the group that is taking over Europa’s lease, their presence would have violated the terms in the RFP, which prohibit communication between an applicant and member of the organization.
In jeans and a simple white shirt, sleeves rolled to the elbows, Pucilowski pled for sunlight on the process that is pulling his restaurant from under him.
After a lively back-and-forth — and after many of Europa’s supporters had headed for the bar — they agreed to take no action on the issue.