enculturating las vegas into the next millennium... art, dance, film, music, poetry, theater, history, nature and everything else that enriches the lives of those who live and visit southern nevada... Since 2003...

Friday, June 11, 2010

5 years and still going strong...

This is an earlier post that I would like to share again about The Beat Cafe and my 5 fabulous year living in Downtown. A new post and photo essay are forthcoming. Of course do not be surprised if over the next few weeks my posts will be a smattering of discussions regarding the World Cup tournament happening in South Africa. 

I am, like my father a soccer (futbol) fanatic and once every four years my blood pressure goes through the roof in anticipation of the games. So bare with me as I enculturate you in the ways of a truly international sporting event. I am not by any means a sports writer but I will be sharing my fathers intimate discussions about soccer and its history. My father Jose has been a fixture of the soccer scene in Southern Nevada since the late 1960's and he shares a passion for the sport that has seen his native land Argentina win two world cups. So stay tuned...

On the eve of my fifth anniversary living Downtown (June 8), after patiently waiting, finally the most important development to occur in the urban core has happened. Granted we have seen the high rises go up, the arts district grow by leaps and bounds, a new transportation hub and city hall on the horizon, the new ACE system bus, the construction of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts being built just outside my window, new lounges, bars, art galleries, public art, restaurants and people moving back Downtown and on and on.  But honestly with all this great activity happening there was something missing, something so important as a matter of fact that it has the potential to be a major game changer in the way we live Downtown.

Okay I know all of you are probably wondering what the hell I am talking about. Well I am talking about a cafe'. A brand new locally owned and operated independent café. A café that I just visited the evening before and again this morning and afternoon all while enjoying a wonderful latte, a muffin, a bottle of water, peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an orangina. 

The Beat Coffeehouse is located at 520 Fremont Street on the corner of 6th and Fremont in the brand new Emergency Arts building, home of the former Fremont Medical Center. Interestingly enough the very place I took my drug test when I got my job for the city in 2005. 

The Beat Coffeehouse and Emergency Arts respectively is the brain child of Jennifer and Michael Cornthwaite proprietors of the former Henri & Odette gallery on Carson and of course one of my favorite haunts the fabulous Downtown Cocktail Room.  Though I did not ask how long they have been working on this project I got a pretty good idea after talking briefly with Michael. But what I can say from personal observation Jen and Mike completed this project in break neck speed and ready for the world in a matter of months. A remarkable achievement considering how difficult it can be for anyone navigating the bureaucracy of city government. There are two words to describe this accomplishment – Passion and Determination.

The Lovely Simone
When I walked in here on Friday night the cafe had barely been open 5 days and I was pleasantly surprised at how perfect the place is. The cafe' is set up beautifully with a stained wood counter top, exposed concrete floors, vintage rattan chairs, little tables and a church pew to boot, all this makes the place seem like it has been here for years. I walked through the little galleries and studios before I plopped down to have a latte and croissant. I was so comfortable here that I spent over 3 hours hanging out and conversing with friends and new acquaintances. My barista and good friend Simone created a wonderful coffee and the convo was fabulous. Thomas was at the counter as was Kristen and her partner Lori who had just walked in, tattoo artist Justin McCroy joined in as did Michael, chef Andy, assistant chef Chepe and Zach. There is no doubt that The Beat is an important development that harkens back to the heady days of Café Enigma, Café Roma (the Newsroom) and Café Copioh respectively. 

Why is a café important to Downtown? Well the answer is simple; community. In just the few hours that I had been in the café last night and this morning I have seen over a dozen people that I recognize that have been part of the local cultural arts intelligencia for years. The movers, the shakers the ones who are making Las Vegas and especially Downtown livable. For Las Vegas to continue to grow, especially for Downtown to develop into a vibrant place where everyone from all walks of life can enjoy, we need to have these types of establishments to prosper. The only way these unique hole-in-the-walls can prosper is through support. They need support from the community, the locals, the tourists and all the other characters that make a city.

Eyes to the world...
Recalling what Jane Jacobs said in her important landmark treatise the Rise and Fall of Great American Cities, she details all the important aspects of what makes some cities successful while others fail. The importance of having eyes and ears on the street to keep crime down, to watch our children play without fear, to support the bodega on the corner, the laundromat, the restaurant, the café or the park. It takes people to make cites livable and those people need places to congregate. The Beat is just that place. As I sit in the café I see the importance of the patrons that are in here looking out the window and seeing the pedestrians walk by as they go to their destination. 

Several years ago prior to the city embarking on the development of the Entertainment District the very corner of 6th and Fremont was the hot spot for crime. Guys and gals standing on the corner soliciting services and or selling drugs. Eventually the city had to install cameras to discourage these types of illicit activities. But cameras alone cannot take care of the problem, it takes the physical presence of people congregating and simply looking out the window. It takes the eyes and ears of the citizenry to take a proactive approach to make a real impact on a city. With new establishments like Emergency Arts and The Beat Coffeehouse the eyes are now back on Fremont Street and the heydays of its past are just around the corner. 

I hope that this is the beginning of many new and exciting developments that will create a vibrant Downtown community. I congratulate everyone who made this wonderful project happen, for its importance cannot be calculated. 

Finally after 5 years my patience has paid off and now I have a new place to call home and a damn good cup of coffee to go with it.

The Beat Coffeehouse and Emergency Arts
520 East Fremont Street at 6th

Brian Paco Alvarez enculturating Las Vegas into the millennium...

posted by Brian Paco Alvarez, Curator and Chronicler of Culture at


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