If all goes well, by the end of 2007 the Oregon Liquor Control Commission will amend its rules to allow music venues to both admit people under 21 and sell alcohol, provided they can keep the one out of the hands of the other. By greatly increasing local teenagers' and college students' access to live music, this small regulatory change would have an enormously positive impact on everyone involved in Portland music, from fans to bands to venue owners. Helping to ensure that the OLCC adopts it is arguably the single most important thing that we can do to ensure the continued vibrancy, diversity, and prosperity of our city's music community. Portland needs more all-ages music options, and if we speak up, we just might get them.
The OLCC statutes governing underage access and exposure to alcohol are called Minor Postings rules, referring to the signs posted at alcohol-serving establishments indicating if and when people under 21 are allowed on the premises. By the deficient logic of the outdated, overly specific criteria set forth in the OLCC rules, most of the places that we know to be music venues first and foremost, but that also secondarily serve alcohol, are considered unfit for minors because they have dance floors, don't have fixed seating, or consist of only one room. The proposed changes to the OLCC code include the introduction of a new type of minor posting for businesses like music venues, theaters, and art spaces that serve alcohol, but have a non-liquor-related primary function and, as such, are clearly not just bars. This new minor posting class would permit such multi-function spaces to serve alcohol and still admit minors, as long as they submit, get approval for, and enforce a control plan that keeps drinks out of minors' hands. Music venues applying for this new status would tailor a plan to meet their own unique needs, but, for the first time, the OLCC would formally recognize wristbands—the primary means for keeping minors away from alcohol at shows almost everywhere else in the country—as a legitimate control method. After all, why do we need age-segregating barriers at concerts, while Blazers fans at the Rose Garden can move freely in spite of beer sales?
Emails sent to OLCC Rules Coordinator Jennifer Huntsman (Jennifer.Huntsman@state.or.us) in support of these changes before November 13 will be duly noted. A sample email has been posted at pdxpopnow.com. If you would like to testify in person, a public hearing will take place on Tuesday, October 30, 10 am-noon, at OLCC headquarters (9079 SE McLoughlin). If you need a ride, meet at the Musicians Union (325 NE 20th) at 8:45 am. Lastly, join me, an OLCC representative, and others for a lively Mercury Debate Club event about these issues at rontoms (600 E Burnside, 21+) at 8 pm later that evening.