Dear Le Bok Fin Haters: Quit Your Whining

This "controversy" is one of the stupidest things I have heard all year. And I hear a lot of stupid.
The view from Le Bok Fin. | Photo by Michelle Gustafson

The view from Le Bok Fin. | Photo by Michelle Gustafson

Did you hear about the latest scourge of Philadelphia? No, it’s not the violence in the streets or the corruption and incompetence in public office or even the PPA parking nazis. It is [cue sinister music] … Le Bok Fin.

Now, in case you have been living under a rock, or, perhaps more accurately, lounging by the pool in Avalon, blissfully unaware of the mess known as Philadelphia that you temporarily left behind, we should tell you that Le Bok Fin is an 8,000-square-foot rooftop pop-up bar above what used to be the Bok Technical School at the corner of Ninth and Mifflin streets in South Philadelphia. The school closed two years ago and the building had sat unused in the interim.

But now, the building — well, the roof anyway — is bustling with swarms of people (mostly young, mostly white), intent on spending their money on drinks and Frenchified snacks ($6 Paris hot dogs, anyone?) and in participating in rooftop yoga. Oh, and in taking an insufferable amount of selfies using the best view in the city as a backdrop.

“These girls just stand there and take selfie after selfie for 20 minutes,” says one local gal-about-town who has frequented the space since its August debut. “Can’t they just spend a few minutes actually looking at the view?”

I feel you, sister. Clearly, Le Bok Fin isn’t for everyone, including me. I’m not into homogenous scenes where each person is trying to out-pretty the next, I’m not giving you $6 for a fucking hot dog, and I’m not doing the downward-facing dog while pigeons circle overhead, looking for a place to relieve themselves. But I’m a grown-up. I can dislike something and think it is stupid and move on.

But such is not the case with a lot of folks out there, who have vociferously objected to Le Bok Fin, even launching a campaign to tank the bar’s Yelp reviews — dirty trickery worthy of a Democratic political campaign in Philadelphia. The “activists” are upset that all this activity is happening atop a shuttered school, even though Le Bok Fin had absolutely nothing to do with the school closing. They are griping that the neighborhood doesn’t need French food or a dog park (another disastrously progressive aspect of the development at that location). And they are horrified that a bunch of privileged white millennials are coming there to drink and stretch. In short, they have summed up developer Lindsey Scannapieco as an evil gentrifier, invading their neighborhood with her big, fancy ideas.

Perhaps these folks don’t realize that the neighborhood has already changed. You could throw a wine glass off of the Le Bok Fin roof and practically hit nationally recognized East Passyunk Avenue restaurants like Laurel, Will and Noord, just a couple of blocks away. And the privileged white millennials have been streaming into the neighborhood for years. Have these “activists” ever tried to get a seat at the bar at Cantina Los Caballitos? There’s even a cafe that serves vegan and paleo hash, a watch shop where all of the timepieces are made out of wood by a UArts grad, and even a friggin’ natural baby store, for crying out loud.

Listen. I live in a section of Overbrook that has virtually no stores or restaurants worth noting. There’s a 7-Eleven two blocks away where I get milk at 7:05 a.m. when I realize there is none for coffee. There’s a very sketchy bar nearby where toothless old white men constantly use the N-word, drink from dirty glasses and threaten the President (no, seriously). Just to further illustrate how culturally derelict this neighborhood is, I’ll tell you that most people seem to get their pizza from the Little Caesars and Domino’s that are just down the street from each other.

If anybody wants to invade my neighborhood with a bunch of millennials and their rooftop yoga and rooftop French food, I will personally roll out the red carpet. In fact, Will Smith’s alma mater Overbrook High School is just around the corner from me. And since it sits on the top of a hill along Lancaster Avenue — you can see the skyline quite nicely just from the front seat of the car — it will have a killer view.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.