Reaction to the city's proposal to ban 18+ shows due to what they say is excessive underage drinking has been severe, much of the Minneapolis concert-going public and local nightlife industry staunchly against the idea. The City says public health advocates are behind the push to ban the shows, and are the same group that unsuccessfully lobbied to ban drinking games and happy hours at bars.
Here's some quotes from my extensive interviews with the city and nightlife industry. It's clear there are many issues to work out.
Lisa Goodman, Minneapolis City Council, Ward 7
"There is nothing in the city process at this point -- we are dicussing as a reaction to the problems with youth access to alcohol. There would have to be a number of meetings for staff and they would have to introduce it to the council, and that takes about two months - it'd be surprise if it happened this summer. And none of this chattering about it, either in City Pages or on Facebook, is making us move any slower or faster. We're just looking into it. That's why I'm laughing at how crazy everyone is going right now because all it's doing is making me wonder what's up with their behavior. The more they fight it, the more I question how they're making their money.
The funny thing about this whole thing is, I've been perceived as kind of the advocate for the liquor industry. I was the author for late night bar closing. I am young myself. I go to bars and restaurants and nightclubs. I'm not puritanical. I'm not someone who's saying all bars and nightclubs are terrible and all these kids are downtown drinking, but I [have to] suggest something to get at this issue of youth who can clearly get into nightclubs and drink.
Doug Kress, Policy Aide to Lisa Goodman, City Of Minneapolis
Minneapolis does have this really cool history of having all of these hip young bars bringing in great new bands and they do that because they get them at age 16, 19, 20. We dont want to ruin that creativity, but I also don't want to be harrassed by the public health people. And look at what happened at the stadium at the U -- they aren't selling alcohol there at all now."
"Do an early show and a late show. One's alcohol free and one's not, and who knows, maybe we'll get a whole new crowd that comes in because they know it's alcohol-free."
Landlord, The Wyman Building (houses Aqua, Envy, Epic)
"If you're a young person and you want to drink an entire bottle of whiskey before you walk into a club, my thoughts are you are going to drink that entire bottle of whiskey before you walk into your buddy's place or a party, too. You're just the kind of kid who's decided you want to drink an entire bottle of whiskey.
It's like if a few guys in your high school class screw up and the teacher punishes the whole class. We're not in high school anymore, and it would seem to me the city would have better things to do with its time. It just seems like they're looking for something to do. These are tough economic times for everyone, but when the city raises taxes, we pass down to our tenants. If these place shut down, we're all going to have to pay more money."
John "JT" Tasch, owner, Sound In Motion promotions
"Sound In Motion musical events are able to survive and thrive in Minneapolis due to the capability of admitting the 18+ crowd. Our musical events focus on headliner djs and performers, and as such our event budgets reflect the need for significant finances coming in through the door.
Many 18-20 year olds that attend these events are extremely passionate about the music. They share this passion of music with their friends, and bring their money to these events to support the music, the venues, the promoters, and the City of Minneapolis. They rarely bring trouble with them. They understand that they already have restrictions due to their age, and they would hate to see more restrictions placed on them. The 21+ crowd stands to lose out as well, as their passion and energy for music often grows with age, and they would not have as many options in the city. This would go back to them taking their passion and money out of Minneapolis to wherever these events could be hosted.
I could not even begin to calculate the revenue that comes in the the government from events like this. Everything from parking revenue to liquor taxes to supporting dining establishments before the night out on the town. I feel it would be sad to see these events limited due to any age restrictions. I feel that it would be unfair and dis- respectful to tell an 18-20 year old that they can vote, be drafted to serve in the military, pay taxes, but NOT attend certain entertainment/nightlife options due to their age."
Nate Kranz, General Manager, First Avenue
John Barlow, Managing Partner, Epic
"It's never been a problem with minors at First Avenue. A lot of that is because we really make a point to train our guys. Some guys will just let you in but we actually look you in the eye, maybe ask you a few questions about your I.D. We don't want any minors coming into our club when they're already drunk or getting drunk inside the club. We turn them away, we don't let them in. We have a very strict policy and we've even called people's parents before. We don't support this. I'd just prefer they kept things exactly the way it is right now because I don't see a system that's broken."
"You don't have to look any further than the newspaper to see how bad things are right now. You've got Mortons closing, you've got Chapter 11 at 7 and at Oceanaire. Block E is 50 percent vacant. Frankly, business isn't there. Now you have a pirana affect 1000 piranas fighting over one meal - the downtown patronage. It will drive business out to the suburbs. I was told through a source at the city that the city knows this would affect at least six venues and that they may lose them beacuse of this.
They will exempt the Target Center, the Twins stadium and the metrodome because they are, as the lt from the police dept told me, "family value venues." When you go to one of these games, a 5-year-old can pass down a beer to someone sitting in the seat next to him and it's unregulated. They dont requre the beer vendors to go through any type of training courses for alcohol awareness. I dont understand how that flies. Have you ever been downtown to the tailgating that goes on at football games? They're binge drinking -- in vehicles
. I've seen more fights at a football game than I have at some of my nightclubs."
Beecher Vaillancourt, Booking Manager, Epic
"Out of three shows, maybe we escort out four or five people that are underage and did not appear intoxicated as they walked in the door but were found 45 minutes later puking in the bathroom with no drink in hand. I dont see that as being excessive considering the amount of people that come in here for shows. I walk through and flyer all the parking ramps all the time and I see Karkov bottles of vodka and empty bottles of Phillips, wine coolers, beer cans -- because that's what they can afford to drink.
I don't think that all the people who would be punished over this is worth it by any means. Downtown isn't doing as good as it was and this is going to hurt it even more. Six years ago when it was in its heyday I still wouldn't be in agreement with it, even if it would have made more sense back then. But with everyone semi-crippled right now, to do more damage is in nobody's best interest. Even an employee at Jimmy John's downtown was upset because thats going to hurt their late night food. If there's less shows downtown, that's less food service people working, less sound-checks working, less light-checks working, fewer video guys and fewer stage hands. It trickles way down the system, way past these holders of these licenses. It involves a lot of people's money."
Chris Olson, General Manager, Triple Rock
"If it does pass, it's going to have a negative impact on the whole industry. We'll have fewer promoters here in Minneapolis altogether, as more and more agents are sticking with 18+ kind of shows. And if some bands come here and play for an audience they're not used to playing for, it's going to hurt their numbers. Bands will just be losing exposure.
However, I'm a fan of all ages shows beacuse it opens it up for 15, 16 and 17 year olds to come in and when I was that age that's all I did back then. I remember missing a Jeff Bukley show when I was 20 and it just ruined me. I think you can still get your 15-27 audience that will come to an all-ages show. If it's something you want to see, you'll come."