Developing an Urban Edge Economy

The challenge of cultivating new opportunities

Dawn Nelson


The Sunday Dispatch ~ September 10, 2023

An empty beer garden wrapped in invisible red tape. Photo by author.

Long ago, my friend Anni noticed that everything is a process in this town. Need change for the parking meter? Try to get change for a dollar and good luck to you — it becomes an arduous journey of looking for a bank because the local shop with a cash register won’t help you.

“Everything is so plastic here,” she said.

I attribute some of this obsession with process to the academic influence of the university that occupies this town.

It’s exhausting.

But more pointedly, this preoccupation with onerous process kills entrepreneurial and innovative enterprise. It wraps things up in red tape.

Things can’t get done.

Of course, it keeps bureaucrats employed, but what about the rest of us?

What happens when jobs hang in the balance?

Several years ago, I decided to embark on a journey to develop my skills as a bartender and found home at a bar on the north side of town where I fell in love. The sheen of the varnished wooden bar and the Brunswick style back bar wooed me. The bar is beautiful and provides a sense of refuge.

So I am particularly protective of a successful business operation.

And after being closed for about a year and half during the pandemic, we reopened a little over two years ago. Since then, this business has grown steadily and we will hopefully open a beer garden in the outdoor area of the establishment because it is a lovely space for it.

I have a new opportunity to be the bartender that opens this space.

Except for… wait for it…


That’s right. Red tape as far as the eye can see, for months and months.

Regulations exist for a reason, of course, but when it prevents businesses from ever opening at all, and jobs are halted in the interim, what is the point? I need this new bar to open because my livelihood depends on it.



Dawn Nelson

Artist, writer, strategist ~ writing creative nonfiction, memoir, essay. WIP: 0100 Series & The Sunday Dispatch.