SEATTLE'S ALL-AGES music scene is getting a boost from the very people who have tried for years to destroy it--the city of Seattle. As of January 27, Seattle's first city-funded all-ages venue, Local 46, will be open for business on the shoulders of a small $25,000 budget secured from the city last year. It may seem strange taking money from the people you've been fighting against, but according to local promoters and all-ages activists, it's all they've got.

Local 46 is part of a nonprofit organization called the Vera Project. Created by all-ages veterans James Keblas, Shannon Stewart, and wonderwoman Kate Becker, the Vera Project was born from a long and difficult struggle to create a viable youth music scene in Seattle. Simply put, it's damn difficult to operate all-ages clubs in Seattle.

First, there is the city's Teen Dance Ordinance. The TDO, the 16-year-old law that puts strict restrictions on clubs where kids mix with adults, has effectively shut down most all-ages clubs. The law forces clubs to operate under intense requirements and economic burdens, like hiring off-duty police officers at 40 bucks an hour. Last August, Mayor Schell vetoed the city council's attempt to repeal the TDO ["Dancing Fool," Aug 20, 2000].

Secondly, the all-ages scene is facing what many Seattleites face--high rent. Property rates for Capitol Hill increased up to 40 percent in the last three years. Downtown real-estate rates have increased almost 60 percent. Furthermore, all-ages clubs can't serve alcohol (a big source of club revenue), making club budgets even tighter. So when City Council Member Richard Conlin proposed $25,000 to help start Local 46, members of the all-ages community did the only thing they could--take the money.

Last December, Conlin, in the face of the mayor's veto and in a last-minute legislative push, convinced the rest of the city council to help the all-ages scene anyway. With a vote of 8-1, Conlin secured $25,000, and Local 46 and the Vera Project were born. "It's almost punk rock when you think about it," says Becker, 34, regarding Conlin's move.

Some involved with Local 46, like board member and local promoter Dave Meinert, admit "taking money from the city is not ideal," but after years of struggle, the all-ages community will take what it can. Becker, who's had to deal with bureaucratic challenges with an all-ages club she runs in Redmond, is excited about Local 46. "We're a nonprofit, so we don't have to fit the city's definition of 'appropriate,'" she says.

Support The Stranger