Ban on 18 and up bars in the works
If you are under 21 in New Orleans, your night life might be in jeopardy.
An ordinance presented by City Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson to ban anyone under 21 from entering bars and music venues has been referred to the Criminal Justice Committee, and a meeting is tentatively set for March 28.
The vote was delayed mid-February so that the city council could reflect on the community reactions to the ordinance and allow members of the New Orleans music community to respond.
Council members declined to release any official statements to The Maroon on the ordinance until the re-evaluation process is completed.
The proposed measure has an enormous impact on the music scene in New Orleans, said Caitlin Sullivan, a mass communication senior.
Sullivan received an email from Bethany Bultman, director of the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, encouraging students to get organized and protest. Sullivan responded by contacting Clarkson.
"I do believe that many bars that are just catering to those underage drinkers should be restricted to 21 and over, but those music clubs that regularly have live music need to remain available to younger citizens," she said in her letter to Clarkson.
"If not, you are stifling the tradition and culture, let alone forbidding many future talents from blossoming," Sullivan added.
Sullivan's opinion mirrors that of several musicians in New Orleans including well-known DJ, artist and producer, Quickie Mart.
"The real artists that are going to suffer will be the musicians and DJs that rely on their weekly gigs in the city, especially if some of those artists are underage themselves," he said.
Quickie Mart said that the ordinance would be a disadvantage for musicians and DJs under 21.
"I had the luxury of playing in 21 and up bars years before I was of age. Not to say that there wasn't trouble at a lot of gigs, and some I didn't end up getting to play because of my age, but it definitely impacted me as a young artist," he said.
The ordinance presented on Feb. 16 said that the restriction would not apply to people employed by the alcoholic beverage outlet. Although the wording is vague, presumably "persons employed," would include musicians hired to play.
The possible consequences of the proposed ordinance have raised concerns with some of the city's top promotion companies.
Ron Richard, CEO and founder of Simple Play, a music promotion company that throws shows in New Orleans, said he was alarmed when he heard about the ordinance but raised doubts about its likelihood of passing.
"I thought there was no way this would go over in New Orleans, just being the town that it is, I didn't think the people would let it happen," Richard said.
Richard also manages the bookings for bands such as Big History, Royal Teeth, EarPhunk and the Floozies. He said that the ordinance would affect the way he promotes these and other artists.
"You have three years of a demographic that can't come to a show. It completely takes away the ability to promote to those kids," Richard said.
Richard said it wasn't fair for that demographic to be the target of the ordinance.
"Whether they drink or not, someone that comes because they really love the music gets denied this chance," he said.
Olivia Lueckemeyer, mass communication junior, agreed with Richard.
"I think it's a ridiculous measure because people don't go to music venues just to drink. They also go to hear music," Lueckemeyer said.
The New Orleans' younger bar patrons have been the focus of a recent string of crackdowns. The proposed measure came just months after council members voted unanimously to tighten the city's curfew policy requiring young people under the age of 16 to be accompanied by a guardian in the French Quarter after 8 p.m.
Lueckemeyer said that obtaining alcohol in New Orleans was as easy as getting a po'boy, but that the ordinance wasn't the right solution to the problem.
"There are other solutions to keeping kids away from alcohol than banning them from the bars or music venues. How about just giving a wristband to those over 21 like the Maison does?" Lueckemeyer said.
Quickie Mart suggested that the focus should be shifted toward other problems.
"I think the police will be overwhelmed with MIPs, and the city has many more things to worry about than 18 plus going to see live music," Quickie Mart said.
Colby Wilson can be reached at email@example.com
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