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?