My sister Tara is assistant manager at Reno's and something of a karaoke queen. I don't go there often, except on assignment, but I am among the many who think the ban is laughable. So much for objectivity.
The ban doesn't appear likely to happen, though. I've talked to a few of the commissioners, and they're not going to turn Danville into "Banville." One of them went so far as to call it "a silly premise. Bad singing? You've got to have an outlet for that."
While this is a fun topic for community debate, make no mistake that the folks at Reno's take the subject quite seriously, and personally. Listen to this righteous rant from Carolyn King, a Reno's regular who waited all night to put her 2-cents in.
"I don't sing, but I love coming in here," said King, 34, of Danville. "There's nothing to do here, at any time. This is it for adults. Why don't they leave us alone. Everyone is going to Lexington, Richmond, Lebanon. Come on. Wake up. This is 2007. Danville needs to grow. It's ignorant. It's ridiculous. I'm ashamed at the way the people of Danville are handling this."
More good singing than bad
Others take offense at all the jokes about bad singing. Many take great pride in what they do, even if it's only karaoke, not "American Idol," and put effort into honing their talent. I can vouch for this. I heard more good singing than bad.
"You want to be good, you don't want to make a butt out of yourself," explained Beth Stringer, 43, of Junction City, who had just belted out a version of Linda Rondstadt's "You're No Good."
"There's a lot of shower singers or whatever who need the self confidence. You clap for everybody. Everybody wants to think they did a good job. Whether they did or not doesn't matter."
But nobody thinks they are too good for Reno's. Most approach karaoke like Rodger Cox, a car salesman from Stanford with a ready gap-toothed grin who comes two or three nights a week with some buddies, including a designated driver.
"I've been coming here for about a year. I started here because it's a close-knit little community. People really support you. I couldn't walk into a strange bar and do it," said Cox, 44, who opened this night's sing-along with Tim McGraw's "Live Like You're Dying" and closed it two-and-a-half hours later with Billy Idol's "White Wedding," throwing in a little sneer and fist pump at "It's a nice day to ... START AGAIN" for good measure.
I've got a little 'wannabe' in me. Doesn't everybody? I sing along to the radio. I was John Cougar Mellencamp in the '80s and Axl Rose in the '90s. Now I'm Keith Urban. I'll probably end up Frank Sinatra. It's a good escape. It's just pure fun."
Playing the villain
Perhaps a little too much fun. The City Commission is considering the karaoke ban, along with dancing and pool tables, at the recommendation of Brigette Milby, Danville's code enforcement officer and chief alcohol cop as local administrator for the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control agency.
The karaoke ban is one of 10 suggestions that Milby brought to the commission's attention as it reviews the ordinance allowing alcohol sales in restaurants that it enacted at the beginning of 2003.
Milby is the obvious villain in this saga, a role she accepts good-naturedly. "My name is on the recommendation. It's my job," she said. "And I'm not the only one who supports it, believe it or not."
To be fair to Milby, it is not karaoke itself or its admirers that raise red flags. It's just that when Reno's or whatever other establishment features karaoke, the place can seem more like a bar than a restaurant. That, in Milby's mind, violates the spirit of the ordinance voters approved when they decided to make Danville "moist."