Clubs can now admit minors while alcohol is served because local civil rights attorney David Osgood won a federal case last summer ["The Odd Couple," June 24, 1999], which determined that it was unconstitutional for the state liquor board to prohibit entertainment. The liquor board then decided the Constitution applies to kids.
Advocates for all-ages shows are thrilled that the city's anti-kid atmosphere seems to be dissipating. But is Seattle really loosening its stronghold on youth entertainment? Not likely. The change in the law has youth activists relying on the government more than ever.
When they meet with the city council next month, members of the Music & Youth Task Force plan to ask the city to get more involved in the youth music scene. Along with some good ideas, like repealing the Teen Dance Ordinance (a bad law that's been suffocating teens for 15 years by requiring that all-ages clubs have special security and insurance) and creating a how-to guide for throwing all-ages events, the task force wants the city itself to open an all-ages club.
Task force member Stephanie Pure admits that a city-regulated club might not be ideal. "It certainly doesn't sound cool," she says. "If they call it the happy, happy teen center, it's not going to get any business."
People under 21 certainly have no reason to trust Seattle's fickle politicians, who in the last month alone have unplugged video games at Seattle Center, and are currently think- ing about tampering with the circus. Whether you're pro or con violent video games or the exploitation of circus animals, it's unsettling to know that political grandstanding may end up compromising the rock club environment.
Moreover, the city council doesn't have such a hot track record of dealing with music. At this point the government hasn't done enough to support all-ages shows. Six months after all-ages shows in bars were legalized, most club owners are still wary. According to Meg Watjen, who books all-ages shows at Graceland and I-Spy, club owners still have to be paranoid about all-ages regulations.
Sadly, the local music scene is used to getting nothing, so they're jump- ing at anything. "If it's a place to play, then to me it's a place to play," says Cody Votolato, the 17-year-old guitarist for hardcore punk band Blood Brothers. "I don't think it's cheesy at all, personally."
City staffers and music scene activists are cheer- ing the notion of a government-run club. Charlie McAteer, aide to City Council Member Judy Nicastro, says, "It's the most exciting part of the whole thing."
Idealistic task force member David Meinert adds, "It seems like the city council wants to change the atmosphere in Seattle. Before, it seemed like Seattle was anti music for kids."
Task force members rationalize that their city club idea would soothe anxious parents, and give the government the control it needs in order to be comfortable with youth entertainment. Making parents and government comfortable with youth entertainment seems a typical bureaucratic oxymoron.