REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK | Should Minneapolis ban 18+ club nights?


Updated July 26 Rumors have been circulating that Minneapolis is considering restrictions on 18+ nights at music venues and clubs that serve alcohol. Debate on the issue (below) sets “negative behavior of intoxicated youth” against having “something other than drinking that the young people can do to have fun, such as listening to music or dancing.” Reader suggestions include cordoned-off areas for non-drinkers and teen night clubs. What do you think?

The Story: According to the “Save Minneapolis Nightlife Entertainment” Facebook page, “The city of Minneapolis is exploring options/language for a bill that would restrict nightclubs, event centers, bars, restaurants (anywhere with a liquor license) with how they could provide entertainment/services for 18-20-year-olds.”

What we know so far: The Facebook page warns that there’s a danger that establishments would have to bar anyone under 21 years of age from attending any event where alcohol was being served. Most significantly, this would end the common practice of having 18+ shows where attendees, upon entry, are carded for wristbands that allow them to consume alcohol.

According to a recent Star Tribune article, owners and promoters of clubs met last week to discuss these issues, but Ricardo Cervantes, Minneapolis’s licensing director, said no official movement has happened on this issue yet.

What’s at stake: On the one hand, there’s huge revenue to be lost if venues are forced to either not serve liquor to anyone at 18+ or all-ages shows, or to not allow those under 21 to attend events where alcohol is being served. Some clubowners fear that this will make it more difficult for them to attract touring acts to play in Minneapolis. Young people are also not happy about the prospect of being denied access to their favorite bands if new ordinances get put in place.

On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for people under 21 to consume alcohol at clubs where it’s being served, and law enforcement officers argue that these events increase risks to health and public safety—for example, fighting and alcohol poisoning.

What do you think? Do you think the wristband system is working? Are you an artist or venue owner/employee who would be affected by a change in this aspect of city law? Do you have ideas about how to make clubs safer while still allowing young people to attend concerts and events? Should there be separate sections in venues for 18+ and 21+? What’s your opinion? What have you heard?

Comment below, or e-mail

What people are saying

Keep 18+ music nights
Maren Ward, Co-Artistic Director for the Bedlam Theater, which hosts theater and music events and is also a bar, said that the 18+ audience defines almost everything that Bedlam does. “It’s so important for us to be able to welcome 18 year olds to the music and theater shows.” She explained that right now, Bedlam is open to all ages until 10 pm, at which point it becomes only open to those over 18. She said that Bedlam just received a grant from the Theater Communications Group, a national funder, for programming that brings in young people. If Bedlam were to be restricted from welcoming 18 year olds into the venue, Ward said, “It would shut us down.”

Eric Silva Brenneman, a musican in the band Quilombolas, writes: “If this were anywhere else in the world, it wouldn’t even be an issue. But seeing as this country still is breaking Puritan chains and the decades Prohibition set us back, here we are; a critical mass that can’t handle alcohol.” Brenneman further writes: “Stopping 18-plus would be horrendous for bands, fans, and the clubs. Armbands are easy to get around, but the sectioned-off idea, kind of like they do at the State Fair in the opposite way for drinkers, could work. Corral them youngin doggies up!”

Another responder, Brandon John, writes: “I say it’s nothing that will even go through. Most likely the dance clubs will agree to an 18-plus night where alcohol is not served, like Stargate in Superior, Wisconsin does. And you know that restricting food places won’t happen.”

A place for 18-21 year olds
Minneapolis Issues Forum member Cheryl Luger emailed: “a few (10?) years ago I remember discussions about having teen night clubs (there may have been one in uptown). It was even brought up at one of our neighborhood meetings. It didn’t get very far but the feeling among proponents was that it would be nice to keep the kids around the n’hood rather than having them go illegal downtown or partying with their friends.”

Luger points out Clara James’s blog on which asserts that while underage drinking is a serious problem, keeping 18-21 year olds out of music and dance venues won’t necessarily solve the problem, as they might get their older friends to buy them alcohol from a liquor store just as easily. James writes that at least at a club or music venue, there is something other than drinking that the young people can do to have fun, such as listening to music or dancing.

Official responses
Ricardo Cervantes, Minneapolis’ licensing director wrote in this statement:

We understand that Minneapolis is a great place to see and hear the top named bands as well as new and local talent. It is our intent to work with the industry to come up with reasonable solutions to the issues we currently face. We want to encourage youth and bands to come to Minneapolis to have a good time responsibly.

The over arching issue is protecting the safety of patrons at bar closing with limited resources. The first precinct is at maximum capacity during these hours. One element of the larger issue is the negative behavior of intoxicated youth. This includes fights, property damage, loud noise, loitering, and youth in need of medical attention.

We will be meeting with the industry to ensure we will not create any unintended consequences and to make sure Minneapolis remains a premier destination.

Minneapolis Councilmember Lisa Goodman, who is rumored to be backing new legislation, said: “Given that we do not have anything in front of us at this point it is premature for me to comment.” When asked if this would be an issue that would be on the council’s table soon, Goodman responded: “Not soon but at some point. In other words all of this proactive lobbying about something that is not yet in front of us will not keep something from coming in front of us.”

Coverage of the issue has also appeared in City Pages, sparking discussion on Secrets of the City.

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