ON MONDAY, August 21, the Seattle City Council did a good thing. With council president Margaret Pageler absent and lone dissenter fuddy-duddy Jan Drago outgunned, the council voted 7-1 to scrap the evil Teen Dance Ordinance (TDO) and replace it with the ass-shakin' All-Ages Dance Ordinance (AADO).

Fifteen years ago, freaked-out parents who thought their kids were unsafe at public dances convinced the city to create the Teen Dance Ordinance. It was supposed to prevent kids' access to scary sex and drug joints parading as wholesome places to hang out. But rather than making dances safe for teens, the law intimidated and regulated all-ages dance venues out of Seattle's commercial club culture. (Ironically, this meant that sex and drugs--like it or not, a predictable component of teen weekends--fell beyond the vision of concerned parents and regulators.) Worse, it stifled the critical social and cultural life for local youth.

Thankfully, youth advocates from JAMPAC, music promoters, and officials from the city's law, fire, and police departments worked for nearly two years on a solution to the excessive TDO. Their answer? The All-Ages Dance Ordinance.

The AADO is under attack from obvious sources: City Attorney Mark Sidran and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Crusty old Sidran loves the old ordinance. He thinks that in the 15 years since the TDO passed, there hasn't been a problem with teens and sex and drugs at clubs. Moreover, he criticizes the new ordinance for being too permissive. "All it does is increase the risk and remove almost all of the prevention measures and security measures," he says. Sidran is way off-base. As Music & Youth Task Force member Dave Meinert wrote in a pissed off e-mail message to P-I columnist Susan Paynter (who wrote a sadly ignorant set of pro-TDO editorials), the AADO "provides a system that [gives] parents, community members, police, fire, and city officials... a way to monitor the youth music scene.... This goes way beyond the TDO." Meinert's on target. For example, the AADO puts parents and cops on a committee that gets to control how the law is applied. It also adds the rule, absent from the TDO, that "sexually violent predators" can't promote dances. Indeed, despite Sidran's and Paynter's last-minute attacks, the new law (which Meinert helped craft) is a giant leap forward for kids who want to cut the rug in Seattle. What follows are the main differences between the uptight TDO and the uninhibited AADO.



1. Youngsters and grownups can't be at the same dance. A youngster is 15 to 20 years old.

2. Promoters have to hire off-duty police officers to work security, buy a $1million insurance policy, and charge a readmission fee to attendees.

3. Promoters have to reapply if they lose their license.

4. No one knows what the hell a teen dance is, so live show promoters are paranoid about letting kids in (even though recently relaxed liquor laws allow kids into clubs until 10:00 p.m.).

5. $135 permit per venue.



1. Anyone can come to a dance.

2. No cops (just trained security guards), insurance, or readmission fees are necessary.

3. There will be an appeals process for license suspension and revocation. A commission that includes parents, kids, music and youth advocates, DJs, cops, and firefighters will be appointed by the mayor and city council to lord over, explain, and report to the city council on the new law and create a "how-to" guide for all-ages dances.

4. An all-ages dance is a dance, not a concert. This means live shows should be exempt from the ordinance.

5. $120 license per promoter.



1. You can dance even if you're just a kid.

2. The TDO's regulations discouraged promoters from entertaining kids because it was too expensive, not profitable, and put them at the mercy of the police--who, thanks to union regulations, could decide not to work security at any event (even when a promoter tried to hire them). The readmission fee was an effort to keep kids from drinking and doing drugs outside a dance. That's already illegal. Duh!

3. Now promoters aren't at the whim of the city, which has a suspect track record when it comes to picking which clubs to chase away.

4. What still seems problematic in the AADO is that no one really knows whether police and other city officials will hold the new law over clubs that let minors in for hiphop events or raves (both of which critics worry might fall under the AADO's definition of a dance).

5. Licensing promoters rather than venues does two things. It makes it easier for promoters to take their business to different spots, so more dances can happen. And it holds a person rather than a place responsible for what happens to dancing kids. This means that sleazy adults who sexually exploit minors will be denied a license to hold all-ages dances. (Whiny Sidran says the new law is flawed, because cops should get to check out everyone who puts on the dance, not just the promoter. Whiny lefties say background checks on promoters could lead to racism, since cops tend to charge blacks with crimes more often than whites.)