Calling downtown Traverse City's annual Men's Night shopping event "drunken debauchery" is way over the top, but there's no doubt some merchants have pushed the event about as far it should go.
What began as a night for men to go downtown to do Christmas shopping for their wives and girlfriends has evolved into a bawdy night on the town when male shoppers roam from store to store to get free food, beer and other alcoholic beverages and, in recent years, gawk at models in bikinis and dancers in store windows.
Jim Nash, owner of the Dune Berry, a women's clothing boutique, has said he will begin a petition drive for an ordinance that puts a halt to what he called "open burlesque-type shows in store windows" and retailers who give away alcohol outside their store.
"To have the semi-burlesque type stuff in full view of the street starting at 5 p.m., it shouldn't be right in the face of people," Nash said. "This isn't Amsterdam. This is family-friendly Traverse City."
Nash said he went to the Downtown Traverse City Association, which sponsors the event, but DTCA officials weren't receptive; now, he says, he'll take his concerns straight to city voters.
To make a ban official, Nash will have to draft petition and ordinance language and have it reviewed by the city attorney as to its form. He'll then have to get 630 signatures from city residents and submit the petitions to the city commission. The commission can either adopt the ordinance or put it before voters in November.
Among his fellow merchants, Nash appears to be a distinct minority. Jeff Joubran, owner of the Sweet Pea, a maternity and baby store and president of the DTCA, said Men's Night is one of his busiest nights of the year.
"Talking to many businesses downtown, Men's Night is a great night and it has been for many, many years," he said.
But Nash has a point about dancers in store windows as early as 5 p.m. and shoppers walking the streets with alcoholic drinks, which is against the law.
There's nothing wrong with a little adult-oriented fun on a night meant for adults, as long as it's within reason, or with stores like Brilliant Books hosting the Bayside Bombshells Burlesque Troupe inside the store — but not in its front window. There's also nothing wrong with stores giving away alcoholic drinks for store patrons, but letting shoppers onto the sidewalks with drinks in hand is too much.
Men's Night is meant for adults, and that's fine. But too much of anything is just that — too much.