Question is, how gay will the light pole banners be?
The owners of businesses along the Cedar Springs strip want to hang banners from light poles to distinguish the shopping and entertainment district.
But the question likely to be debated in the coming weeks is, just how gay should the banners be?
Scott Whittall, co-owner of the Buli restaurant and president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said light pole banners between Oak Lawn and Douglas avenues represent the next step in the group’s ongoing beautification efforts. The Merchants Association’s board was tentatively scheduled to discuss the banners Friday, Dec. 14.
Whittall said that in addition to things like cost, the discussion undoubtedly would focus on the design of the banners.
Oak Lawn traditionally has been Dallas’ gayborhood, but as the area’s demographics continue to change, there is a desire among business owners to market to the growing straight population.
“Everybody who’s on the board is gay,” Whittall said. “There’s going to be a gay flare to it no matter what. Whether it’s in-your-face gay or an undertone, it will be there for sure. It’s definitely going to be an interesting conversation when it comes up.”
Other cities have used signage that incorporates things like gay Pride flags to delineate traditional gayborhoods. For example, Philadelphia recently put up 36 street signs permanently affixed with the six colors of the flag’s rainbow.
But Michael Doughman, executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, suggested that if they opt to include a gay theme on the banners, Cedar Springs business owners may want to be more subtle. The Tavern Guild is made up of about 20 gay bars, roughly half of which are on the Cedar Springs strip.
“We don’t want to whitewash over 20 years of history in that neighborhood by any means, but we don’t want to put ups signs that would potentially say to people that if you’re not gay or lesbian, you’re not welcome,” Doughman said.
Doughman said the plan would include 20 to 26 banners that are 3 to 4 feet tall and about 2 feet wide.
The banners, similar to those in other areas of the city, would be attached to metal frames on light poles.
Eventually, there would be a variety of banners that can be switched out to promote various events throughout the year, Doughman said.
While the overall cost of the plan is unknown, Doughman said someone already has offered to pay for the banners if the Merchants Association can get approval from the city and come up with the money for the metal frames.
Whittall said the banners would be part of the Merchants Association’s strategy for attracting more foot traffic to the strip, where several businesses have gone under in recent months.
The Merchants Association, which was restructured earlier this year, also recently launched First Wednesday, a monthly event featuring discounts, street music and refreshments. Whittall said he was pleased with the turnout for the inaugural First Wednesday on Dec. 5. The next is scheduled for Jan. 2.
“Now that we’ve got one success under our belts, I really think that we can move forward with it [the banners],” Whittall said. “Is it going to happen tomorrow? I don’t think so, but I think it’s definitely something that will happen in the next year.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 14, 2007