Friday, January 26, 2007

Just Because You are Underage

My theme for the week appears to be: must we legislate? The latest that has me wondering is the legislation being discussed by my very own councilmember, Mr. Jim Graham. In the wake of the death of a teen at a DC nightclub, various discussions are occuring as to whether persons under the age of twenty one should be allowed in clubs. And I recognize the event is being used as a trigger point to start the discussion, but this girl's age had nothing to do with why she died. Certainly her age makes her death a bit sadder. But since the person with the gun was having an altercation with the bouncer when the gun went off, her death is tragic but unrelated to her age.
DCist has links here, here, and here, but the upshot is that apparently teens are saying that at some clubs the staff charges a you-are-underage-but-I-will-serve-you fee and certainly I think that is a concern. The legislation is still in its infancy and there are a couple of variations floating from barring underagers from all venues that serve liquor to restricting underagers presence at club venues but allowing it at music or concert venues.
My church, through a partnership with a local high school, offers a regular Friday night event that showcases local (usually high school) bands and sodas and snacks so that there is a place for high schoolers* to hang out and listen to music, in a substance free zone. And I think that is important. And certainly places like the 9:30 club, or the Black Cat have built a reputation for housing all ages shows and being metro accessible - in location and most concert times - so it would be a shame to see that change.
And also, a number of music industry folks have chimed in that since the teen demographic is one they want to reach, having no small venues where teens are allowed would hurt them. I am somewhat less concerned, personally, about restrictions to clubs, although I will wait to see what the proposed legislation looks like.
I am terribly sorry that this seemingly wonderful girl was killed. And perhaps the club needs to evaluate their security policies, although this does seem like a set of cascading circumstances. But in the end, her age did not put her in more or less danger, stray bullets cannot detect age. I recognize the temptation is to try and fix it, I just don't think this is the way.

*There is no age restriction, but somehow I think college kids would feel a bit old.