(Buffalo, N.Y.) – Patrons who frequent downtown Buffalo bars have noticed changes in the music rotation in recent weeks and some have speculated the changes may be racially motivated.
At a number of clubs, patrons say they have noticed less rap and hip-hop music, which is often popular with people of color.
One thing is clear; there have been problems at a number of downtown establishments.
For example, a petition earlier this month on Change.org asked city leaders to shut down the Checkmate Bar and Grill, located on East Lovejoy Street, because of problems including fighting. However, the petition was soon removed.
In June 2016, the city closed The Lodge on Chippewa Street after patrons were involved in a street brawl that included gunfire.
Additionally, some have expressed concerns about increasing violence around bars in the Allentown neighborhood.
At Allen Street Hardware, located at 245 Allen St., Manager Traci Volker said the club has recently changed their music in response to problems that occurred on a dance floor in the back of the club.
“We actually don’t have DJs anymore,” she said. “We had to make adjustments because of some issues we’ve been having with the crowds in the backroom.”
According to patrons, the backroom dance floor often featured rap or hip-hop music.
However, Volker said she didn’t feel comfortable answering questions about the relationship between violence and the type of music played at Hardware.
“I’ve deejayed at bars where they’ve told me ‘hey it’s getting too dark in here,'” said a DJ, who has worked at a number of downtown clubs but did not want to give his name for fear that he might lose work.
“So they would tell me to switch the music from hip-hop to something more upbeat to, I guess, keep everyone in control,” he said.
The DJ said he has noticed less rap and hip-hop music at a number of downtown bars.
“I do believe that they are trying to have more of a white audience,” said Shayla Minor, a frequent clubgoer who is African-American. “What other reason is there to stop playing hip-hop music?”
The problem with violence at bars has nothing to do with race or music, the DJ said.
“Hip-hop is the easiest thing to blame in that situation, when really it could be the people that are coming to your bar, but you can’t control that either,” he said. “At the end of the day if someone wants to fight someone across the bar, he is going to fight that person regardless of Miley Cyrus or Migos.”
“It’s not solving anything. I believe it drives away business after a while because everyone listens to hip-hop,” said Kenadee Noble, a frequent downtown bar patron who is African-American. “People are going to be loud and jumping crazy as long as there is alcohol.”