Amy J. Ruiz

On Monday, November 12, with just one day left before the end of the public comment period on a proposed Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) rule change that could open up Portland's all-ages music scene, youth gathered in city hall's council chambers to testify.

In front of the Multnomah Youth Commission—the hearing wasn't an official OLCC event—dozens of youth crammed in to discuss and debate the "minors posting" rules. Simply put, the current OLCC proposal would allow some venues to submit a "control plan, which is a description of how they'd prevent minors from obtaining alcohol, and limit their exposure to a drinking environment," explained Dan McNeal, the OLCC's metro licensing unit manager. If the OLCC approves the control plan, minors would be able to catch shows, and venues would be able to pay the bills by selling liquor.

Kids who testified on the proposal gave the thumbs up to the idea.

"I'm 16 years old, and I'm here because I'm worried about my friends. My school is nicknamed Drinkin' Lincoln. That's not because people go to bars. It's because people can't go to venues, so they go to someone's house and drink in the basement," said Lisa Frank.

Teenager Jon Woelfer echoed that sentiment: "I'd just like to go and have fun. I'm not going to drink, I don't want to. I don't think this change would necessarily increase youth drinking. Youth would probably not go to a place full of adults and authority figures and drink, they're going to go to the 7-Eleven or their mom's fridge."

After youth testified, the 17 Multnomah Youth Commissioners present debated whether or not to send a letter to the OLCC, endorsing the proposal. Thanks to the group's bylaws, a majority vote of the entire commission—or 16 votes—was needed to pass a motion, leaving a razor-thin margin for dissent.

Despite unanimous testimony in favor of the proposal, the group was unable to secure enough votes to endorse the proposal—several youth commissioners had concerns about youth under 18 being around drinking at all, even if a "control plan" was in place to keep alcohol out of underagers' hands. A compromise motion—to endorse the OLCC proposal, but recommend that it only apply to those 18 and up—also failed, due to protest votes from commissioners who argued that it cut out too many music-adoring kids.

However, every motion to endorse the proposal did get the support of a simple majority of the 17 members present, and the public testimony will be forwarded to the OLCC.

The OLCC's board is expected to vote on the proposed rule change on December 13 or 14.