The kids are alright. Or are they?

You may have seen in this week’s City Pages that Minneapolis City Councilwoman Lisa Goodman is pushing a proposal that would restrict 18-and-over shows at city bars and concert venues that serve alcohol.

The options, according to reporter Jen Boyles, would be simple: If you want to serve booze at a show, it needs to be 21 and up. If you want an all-ages show, no booze.

Club owners, naturally, are up in arms. Just as movie theaters rely on inflated concession prices to sustain their businesses, rock venues count on the sale of $5 Pabst Blue Ribbons to balance out the bottom line.

Also, as the booking manager for the Cabooze notes in the article, bands rely on the 18-21 fans to spend money on t-shirts and other merchandise (since they can’t buy beer, and they aren’t buying CDs anymore).

Goodman’s rationale is that the city can’t really claim to be taking serious steps to fight underage drinking when it allows underage kids to go into bars. Which makes sense.

Bars use wristbands, magic markers and all manner of strategies to sort out who’s of age and who isn’t. But a recent visit to First Avenue illustrates how difficult this can be to keep tabs on.

I didn’t take the video below, but I was standing about 10 feet away from the guy who was. Take a look at the crowd and imagine trying to sort out who’s drinking what, and whether they’re wearing wristbands:

Of course, if you’re 19 years old and seeing Sonic Youth for the first time, you’re not likely to risk being tossed out of the show for the sake of drinking an overpriced beer. As Parker Jones, a U of M student quoted in the City Pages story, has observed, kids who are determined to, um, enhance their concert-going experience with intoxicants simply do so before they arrive at the venue. When I was in college, this was known as getting “primed.” Maybe that’s still what they call it.

So that raises the larger question: Is banning 18-21 year olds from music venues an effective strategy to combat underage drinking? If they’re already drinking elsewhere, how does banning them from a concert where the security staff is actively trying to prevent them from drinking cause them to drink less?

And would the benefit outweigh the potential damage to the local music scene, which is a big reason that so many young professionals choose to live here?

  • Tyler

    …or we could just lower the drinking age to 18.

  • bsimon

    “Goodman’s rationale is that the city can’t really claim to be taking serious steps to fight underage drinking when it allows underage kids to go into bars. Which makes sense.”

    That doesn’t make much sense to me. The Feds forced the move to 21 on us. Let them enforce it.

  • Elizabeth T

    suck it up, and admit that we aren’t any better than the rest of the civilized world – and lower the drinking age to 18.

    It is a never ending source of hypocrisy that I legally mature enough at 18 to sign a 30-year mortgage, have sex, get married, and open credit cards – but somehow I’m incapable of making an adult decision about drinking alcohol.

    I sincerely do not believe that having a drinking age of 21 actually makes any difference in the public’s health. It’s pandering to the puritanical a “feel good” system of laws.

  • MR

    When we last talked about the drinking age, Bob pointed out that when it went from 18 to 21, alcohol-related accidents and fatalities dropped sharply. It seems that the policy, in that way, has been successful.

  • Joe R

    Without getting into a larger discussion about the drinking age, and our collective surprise that the city of Minneapolis is “claiming to be taking serious steps to fight underage drinking”…

    This is a poorly thought out idea and Ms. Goodman should withdraw her proposal.

    It hurts music and stifles our city’s culture, it punishes young adults without reason, and it will achieve little in curbing underage drinking.

  • Bonnie

    The real battleground needs to be drinking and driving and we are still doing a poor job of enforcement. Lack of transit makes it impossible.

  • JSmith


    Didn’t it show that the accident rate in the upper age groups went up? I can’t recall. Might be a good idea to try and find the article.

  • Noah Kunin

    While I agree with most of the commentators here re: the hypocrisy of the drinking age being 21, I also have to note that First Ave is also extremely proficient in enforcing their wrist band/marker rules.

    At every all ages show I’ve ever been to I’ve seen First Ave staff drag out, from that very floor, at least 2 or 3 three under-agers who are drinking.

  • Ken Paulman

    But Noah, doesn’t that prove Goodman’s point that underage kids are getting access to alcohol at 18+ shows?

  • barb millard

    Would this apply to the Opera where drinks are served at intermision? Bad idea.

  • Bob Moffitt

    Barb has a good point. Minneapolis should ban opera to prevent underage drinking.

    (grin, wink).

  • Amy

    I didn’t hit 21 years until my senior year of college. Though I wasn’t really into drinking, I very strongly considered getting a fake ID just so I could get into concerts. Many of the artists I wanted to see played 21+ shows, and it was incredibly frustrating to be excluded due to a beverage that I didn’t even want. Pushing young adults to look for fake IDs so they can see some live music performed, particularly in this age when “identity theft” is such a serious crime, is not the answer.

    (And in response to getting “primed” — we called it “pregaming”.)

  • Heather

    Amen, Amy.

    Also, Bonnie is right about transit. We used to live just outside of Washington, DC, and I can say that I really do miss being able to go to a concer, or out with friends after work, drink what I wanted, then WALK TO THE TRAIN to get home.

  • Dave

    We call it Front-Loading.

  • Elizabeth T

    as Bonnie points out …

    the problem isn’t drinking or getting drunk – the problem is people’s behavior once intoxicated.

    The Problem people complain about is drinking & driving. Not that other problems don’t occur, but the DUI is the big one that poses the greatest risk to others. Being loud and obnoxious in public is, well, obnoxious, but isn’t going to get your high school buddy killed.

    We need to engage in risk management. Risk elimination is simply impossible as well as impractical. Prevent people from driving drunk, not from drinking.

    And, as Barb mentioned, this regulation only seems to be aimed at bars, not “high society” events like the opera.

    Single figure statistics about accident rates are superficial. The accident rate of interest is the one of under-age drivers, who are the only ones effected by the law. I wish I could recall off-hand which article I read, but recently one in a peer-reviewed scientific journal stated that certain teaching methods were ineffective, including MADD in the list of programs they reviewed. The conclusion was based upon the long-term change in behavior of people going through the different training programs. (The article is on my computer somewhere – I found it when doing the research for a public health course last week.)


    We also have a huge issue with the (il)legality of minors consuming alcohol while at home, when provided by the parents. My parents gave me a little glass of wine at the big family dinners (Thanksgiving & Christmas). The 1st time it happened was when I was 13. I don’t think 1 oz. of wine twice a year will turn a kid into an alcoholic. I also think it will help prevent drinking from being some mysterious rite of passage that kids rush towards.

    I am also a firm believer that a huge impact on a young adult’s choice to drink is their parents’ behavior. Not their parents’ drinking habits, but their overall behavior about social events. Yes, peer pressure is going to be the biggest influence. But … have the parents prepared (pregamed – grin) their kids for dealing with that peer pressure? Failing to give our children the skills necessary to Say No is our own fault.