Dumpster Wars Strike South Street
UPDATE: The city says that the MilkBoy South Street dumpster is perfectly legal. For the full story, go here.
Usually, a South Street bar has to, you know, actually open before people start considering it a nuisance, but the upcoming South Street location of MilkBoy has managed to annoy, irk, and otherwise piss off some locals before the first drink has even been poured.
The South Street MilkBoy is set to debut in early July, bringing the corridor its first combination bar, cafe, restaurant and music venue, but some folks have already decided to boycott it. Why? Because of one of those large trash dumpsters that MilkBoy has parked out in front on South Street.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, What’s the big deal? There are big trash dumpsters all over the city. And that’s true. There are. But there are not big trash dumpsters on South Street. Well, there weren’t — until MilkBoy decided to put its big trash dumpster there.
That’s right. We took a stroll along the main commercial corridor of South Street — from Eighth Street down to Second Street — and we counted exactly one big trash dumpster. Yes, the one parked out in front of MilkBoy.
“When I saw they were coming in, I really welcomed them, because I thought it was a great concept for the area,” says Noah Webster, who has owned Moo Tattoo on the 500 block of South Street for 20 years. “But then I saw that dumpster, and when I went to MilkBoy about it, it all just went downhill.”
Webster, who lived on South Street for 15 years and was once on the board of the South Street Headhouse District (SSHD), says that he’s reached out to MilkBoy several times about the dumpster and that they won’t budge.
In since-deleted Facebook comments on a thread about the dumpsters that was started by Webster, MilkBoy partner Bill Hanson wrote, “We are permitted by the letter of the law to have the dumpster exactly where it is.”
A complaint about the dumpster has been filed with the Streets Department, and a Streets spokesperson was not immediately able to clarify whether a business is allowed to station a dumpster on South Street, and the Mayor’s press office is currently looking into the matter. But if it were legal, you’d think that more businesses would take advantage of it.
“Traditionally, at least in that district, no dumpsters have been allowed on a right-of-way,” observes local DJ Robert Drake, a former SSHD vice-chair who recently moved out of the district after 16 years. “One of the big problems that South Street has is garbage and trash. There’s nothing like early Sunday morning on South Street when it’s littered with pizza plates and cheesesteak wrappers.”
Rob Windfelder, the owner of Zipperhead replacement Crash Bang Boom, just a couple of doors down from MilkBoy South Street, says that one of South Street’s biggest problems is that it was never supposed to be what it has become. “I’m pretty sure that when they were designing the city, they didn’t intend this little street between Center City and South Philly to be a big tourist thing,” says Windfelder. “And so we have all these infrastructure problems as a result of it, including trash.”
And critics suggest that the MilkBoy dumpster could actually be making the trash situation worse. Drake notes that two smaller trash receptacles recently turned up in front of MilkBoy, and they are now overflowing. Hanson has said that those containers do not belong to MilkBoy.
“Somebody put them there, so obviously the dumpster is telling people, ‘Hey, this is a great place to put trash,'” Drake says. “Trash begot trash.”
In a Facebook post of his own, Drake said that he had been anxiously anticipating the opening of MilkBoy South Street.
“But this — sorry, this ruins it all for me,” he wrote. “How do you spend tens of thousands of dollars literally redoing every inch of a property — only to have garbage be front and center when folks walk by? Heaven forbid you’re in need of that ramp — which drops you right off into the recycling.”
As far as Webster is concerned, while those smaller trash receptacles may not belong to MilkBoy — and there’s no evidence that they do — their presence in front of MilkBoy is more indication that MilkBoy is not ready to be a good neighbor.
“When they said that those aren’t theirs, that’s where I lost it,” says Webster. “Fine. They’re not yours. When someone dumps something in front of my store, I’d clean it up.”
We asked Michael Harris, current head of the SSHD, to clarify the district’s policy as to dumpsters on South Street. He did not, but he did say this in an emailed response:
We are excited and looking forward to MilkBoy’s new location opening at the 4th and South. They are investing alot into improving the property and will be a great addition to the South Street area.
We are working actively and cooperatively with the owners throughout the process, including figuring out trash management solutions and alternatives that work for both the business and the overall South Street community. MilkBoy plans on opening sometime after July 4th, and we will continue to work with them both before and after they open to address any issues or concerns.
When reached on Thursday morning, Hanson told us that those smaller containers belonged to the owner of the previous business in his location, and he insisted that his dumpster is, indeed, legal right where it is.
But Hanson couldn’t chat for long, because he said he was busy cleaning tattoo ink off of the front of MilkBoy South Street. He fingered Webster as the culprit.
“That’s asinine,” says Webster, categorically denying that he vandalized MilkBoy in any way. “Now I’m really pissed off.”
“We’re working really hard to be part of South Street,” says Hanson. “It’s wild that people think we’re doing anything besides helping the neighborhood, throwing a great party, and providing our exceptional level of hospitality, food, beverage, and our amazing live music.”
Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.