Last week, the state liquor control board proposed a new statewide license for nightclubs that would eliminate all-ages shows at establishments that serve alcohol—even if alcohol isn't being served during the show.
The proposed new rules—the product of a liquor board work group charged with updating current regulations that limit the number of liquor licenses statewide ["In Other News," Nov 16]—creates a new definition for "nightclubs" that would bar anyone younger than 21 from entering, effectively prohibiting all-ages shows at clubs like Neumo's, the Crocodile, and the Showbox.
The proposal defines "nightclub" in incredibly broad terms. Any place that operates primarily between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.; is open five days a week or less; charges a cover fee; has live entertainment; has a higher occupancy than the number of seats; or doesn't offer menus along with drinks—would have to get a license under the proposed regulations.
The proposal would also allow the liquor control board to withhold a license if it felt that the number of licenses in an area was "adequate for the reasonable needs of the community." (And who determines if there are an "adequate" number of clubs to serve the community? The famously hostile-to-nightlife state liquor control board.)
Club owners and lobbyists for the industry seemed taken aback by the proposal, which comes on the heels of a separate licensing proposal by Mayor Greg Nickels that would place new restrictions on Seattle bars and clubs, and a new state law requiring large clubs and bars to install expensive sprinkler systems. Music promoters and club owners say they're not opposed to some regulation; they just don't want nightlife to be regulated out of existence.
"We've said all along that we want to have a comprehensive approach," says Seattle Nightlife and Music Association lobbyist Tim Hatley. "This would give us three separate definitions of nightclubs and make it impossible to have all-ages shows."
The state liquor control board's move comes just four years after Seattle music activists killed the city's draconian "Teen Dance Ordinance" (TDO) in 2002. Repealing the TDO required a decade-long effort from the music community.
The decision to adopt or reject the legislation rests in the committees of state Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36, Seattle) and state Representative Steve Conway (D-29, Tacoma), who head the labor and commerce committees in the state senate and house, respectively.
Kohl-Welles is rumored to support the legislation, which is also reportedly backed by City Attorney Tom Carr, who has sparred with bars and nightclubs in the past. Neither Kohl-Welles nor Carr could be reached for comment.