Harry Osborne
Harry Osborne

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"What Is Written... How Readest Thou?"

Ybor City Night-Life
Should a Christian Be There?

Most large cities have a section with a reputation for the lewd and ribald conduct frequently present after dark. In Paris, it is the Bois de Boulogne section of the city. In New Orleans, it is the Bourbon Street area. By day, these places may have good restaurants, museums or parks to visit, but decent people should know to stay clear from those areas by night. The phenomena is not peculiar to those cities. Most people around the country can tell you what neighborhood or section is of the same nature in their community. When our children are allowed to drive on their own, godly parents lay down the law that driving to those areas is absolutely forbidden.

Tampa is no exception to the rule. We have a similar section of town known for bawdy and raunchy night-life -- Ybor City. Those living in the area for any time can attest to Ybor City's night-time reputation as an ungodly atmosphere of bars, saloons, nightclubs, dance clubs, parades and indecent exposure that pervade the 7th Avenue strip. Despite this fact, several of our college students and young adults have asked for help in convincing some of their peers that a Christian should stay away from the Ybor City night scene. Sadly, there are cases when those professing to be Christians seek to justify going to such places or even go to participate in the night scene of Ybor City's clubs and parades. This article was originally written to help both our young people and parents to be armed with the facts to verify the problem, as well as giving an overview of Bible teaching about a Christian's responsibility to avoid places of ill repute. It is being printed in Watchman by request for those who send their children to the Tampa area seeking a school setting that protects them from immoral surroundings. They should be aware that such influences will not be escaped in this area or by attending any school in this area. We must alert our young people to the danger, teach them to avoid it and prepare them to rebuke it among their peers.

Is it just the claim of an overly strict preacher that Ybor City night-life has a reputation for ungodly conduct? Let us see how people of the world describe it in order to get a description from a non-preacher perspective. One local news story introduced Ybor City night-life like this:

The chaotic mix of ear-splitting music, free-flowing alcohol and youthful exuberance on Ybor City's bar strip gave Beth Berrean a bad memory from her college days in New Orleans: Bourbon Street on Halloween. "It was real crowded, real loud, real rowdy, so many people looked really young," said Berrean, 29, a computer systems analyst from Reston, Va. "Not a place I'd go to again." That wild ambiance is the magnet that attracts about 20,000 people, mostly 20-somethings and teens, to Seventh Avenue on a typical Saturday night (Steve Huettel, "Tampa Debates Wild Side of Ybor," The St. Petersburg Times [6/13/99]).

Adria Cimino, an Associated Press writer, described the area in these words: 

On any given Friday or Saturday night, 20,000 to 30,000 people gather to enjoy what Ybor City Chamber of Commerce president Annette DeLisle calls "the nighttime Ybor." La Setima, or 7th Avenue, closes to traffic and club-goers mingle in the street until the early morning hours. It's not unlike New Orleans Bourbon Street, sans strippers and sex shows.... There are places like [name omitted - HRO] where on Wednesdays ladies drink free until midnight and pitchers of beer for the guys go for $5.... The flagship is perhaps [name omitted - HRO], which bills itself as a "multi-themed entertainment complex with three different dance rooms, a state-of-the-art laser light show and the famous Goya Female Impersonator Show." The after-dark awakening of this 10-block area has kept the Tampa Police Department on its toes. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights are "when we beef things up in Ybor City," says police spokesman Steve Cole (Adria Cimino, "Old cigar district lights up after dark," USA Today: Travel Guide [8/2/00]).

Other writers have reviewed the drinking and dancing establishments in a way to make clear the atmosphere of the area. One was heralded "for its dancing staff and for the women's undergarments that hang from the ceiling." A sign on the door warns, "You may get whipped. You may have your bra taken off. You will get drunk." Another club was characterized with this appeal: "If the regulation mix of house-techno-hip-hop-and-booty gets you in touch with your repressed tribal yearnings, if you need a dark, noisy, gritty place to behave in a way you'd rather not during the day, this is the club for you." According to reviewers, one place distinguishes itself as the "most insane party you will ever attend." Remember, this is the assessment of worldly people!

A recent event typifies the night life scene of Ybor City -- it is called "Guavaween." Let us again let writers from the world paint the picture of the occasion. One article last week noted "the seedy depths of Guavaween" calling it "Ybor City's annual tip-of-the-hat to the drunk and outrageous" and "Tampa's naughtiest night" (Mary Jo Melone, "Unmasking innocence at Tampa's Guavaween parade," The St. Petersburg Times [10/30/03]). The same "celebration" was depicted as follows a few years ago:

On any Saturday in Ybor City, women wear platform boots, sequined halter tops and leather miniskirts for a stroll down the street. On Guavaween in Ybor, men with hairy backs squeeze into backless pink dresses for a night guzzling beer. Anything, and everything, goes on Guavaween, the Latin-style Halloween festival founded 17 years ago as a fundraiser for Ybor City. The annual tradition lived on with few problems Saturday. Revelers danced in the streets and pointed fingers in awe at the myriad costumes that passed by. Not surprisingly, some people got a little rowdy. As usual, some adults got naughty and exposed a few extra body parts (Susan Thurston, "Anything Guava Goes," The St. Petersburg Times [10/29/00]).

Lest anyone think this annual event merely got out of hand on a couple of occasions, it should be understood the same thing happens every year. In 2002, the newspaper said, "The city's most outrageous and fanciful celebration stumbled through Ybor City on Saturday" with "the traditional woozy street frolic of costumes, celebration and ribaldry" as well as "the usual corps of skin flashers" (John Balz and Ron Matus, "Guavaween characters gambol in Ybor City," The St. Petersburg Times [10/27/02]). Another writer said it was "likened to New Orleans' Bourbon Street for their commonalities: large crowds, beads, bosoms, booze" adding that "the debauchery begins at 4 p.m. and is scheduled to last until at least 3 a.m." (Shannon Breen, "Guavaween: It's for families and frolickers," The St. Petersburg Times [10/24/2002]). In 1999, one writer gave parents this warning: "Given the drinking, partial nudity and general debauchery of Guavaween evening, it's best to take the kids home before 4 p.m., when the grown-up activities starts" ("Family fun by day, grown-ups howl at night," The St. Petersburg Times (10/29/99]). Yes, lewdness is inseparable with Guavaween and Ybor City night-life in general.

Having clearly established the nature of Ybor City night-life, it should be obvious that no Christian would want to be a part of that scene. Furthermore, the admonition of the Scripture to stay away from such places is equally clear. For example, listen to the inspired words of wisdom:

Enter not into the path of the wicked, and walk not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it; turn from it, and pass on. For they sleep not, except they do evil; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence. But the path of the righteous is as the dawning light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble (Proverbs 4:14-19).

One cannot be honest with the words of Scripture and the facts without admitting that Scripture forbids a child of God to be in places known for ungodliness like the Ybor City clubs. If we doubt the effects of a grossly wicked society, let us remember Sodom and its effects upon Lot and his family (Genesis 19). When the surroundings are filled with evil, people begin to accept moral depravity of every kind. A wicked environment helped Lot's daughters to view even incest as permissible. If one puts himself in an immoral environment, can he be so naive to think that it will have no effect? Paul sounded an alarm about the problem of evil influence in simple words when he said, "Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals" (1 Corinthians 15:33). Being in the wrong place with the wrong people has always pulled one in the wrong way. It still does today.

And what about the requirement for a Christian to maintain a good influence? The Scripture plainly teaches such. We are to "prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). We are commanded to "do all in the name [by authority] of the Lord" (Colossians 3:17). We must "do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). We are instructed to live beyond reproach (1 Peter 3:15-16). Jesus charged, "Let your light so shine that men may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:13-16). We are to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them" (Ephesians 5:11). These principles, too, make clear what we must do.

Should a Christian go to the night life scene in Ybor City? No, a Christian has no business going to places of evil repute. Let us rebuke such and teach others to avoid the ungodly surroundings, rather than compromising with sin by their presence. Failure to flee from the evil will lead one to acceptance of and participation in ungodliness with the world (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

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