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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Local venues struggle to serve all ages

Ernie Somoza
Ernie Somoza/ Daily Wildcat Plush located at the corner of 4 avenue and 6 street is one of 4th avenues bars that are strict on enforcing legal drinking age laws. Bars have been enclined to use Identification card scanning devices along with blacklights to check for state holograms with the higher rates of fake ID’s.

While some students complain there aren’t enough all-ages venues, local establishments struggle to serve the under-age audience without violating Arizona liquor laws.

The long list of 21 and over venues includes Club Congress, Sky Bar, The Hut and Plush, among others. But for students under 21, naming places that are all-ages or 18 and over is more challenging.

“If there are any, I don’t know about them,” said Joslyn Kramer, a freshman studying journalism and French. “It would be nice to open up more options for people who are under 21. We’re always looking for places to go.”

According to A.J. Garnello, a freshman studying ecology and evolutionary biology, students counter the supposed lack of entertainment venues by creating their own nightlife at home. He said the few local establishments that serve younger audiences are questionable.

“I would love to go to a club and dance, but not if I hear it’s sketchy,” he said.

All-ages venues do exist in Tucson. Some include the Rialto Theatre, Solar Culture and Skrappy’s Tucson Youth Collective. Club Congress also hosts some shows for younger patrons.

Steven Eye, the manager of Solar Culture, an art gallery and music venue on Toole Avenue downtown, said he believes if people want to hear music, they have a right to do so, regardless of their age.

“We choose not to be a bar because we’re not really about promoting alcohol sales, we’re about offering people opportunities to feel safe so they can create and come and see performances by touring bands that are inspirational,” Eye said.

Club Congress also hosts all-ages and 18 and over shows, even though it is technically an over-21 nightclub. According to David Slutes, the entertainment director for Club Congress, if a well-known act is performing, the venue tries to ensure the event will be accessible to everyone who wants to see it, including people who are underage.

However, for some establishments, opening their doors to an underage audience involves too much risk. Plush, an exclusively 21 and over night club and bar on Fourth Avenue, diligently enforces its 21 and over policy to make sure it does not violate Arizona liquor laws.

According to the Arizona Liquor Law, it is illegal for an underage person to be on the premises of a licensed alcohol vendor while that vendor’s primary intention is to sell alcohol. The establishment, can, however, designate an area for underage patrons if a barrier separates them from the space where alcohol is being sold and consumed.

If a licensed venue violates this provision, and in any way enables someone who is underage to purchase or consume alcohol, the state has the right to refuse renewal of the license, to suspend it, or revoke it entirely.

According to Bart Jennings, an administrator at Plush, the venue rarely hosts all-ages events because if an underage person were to obtain alcohol on its premises, Plush could lose its license and consequently, its income.

Even Plush performers are subjected to the liquor laws. According to Jennings, an underage performer is only allowed to walk on the stage and perform, then walk off the stage and out of the venue.

Denying entry to an underage audience has its disadvantages. Jennings said Plush frequently receives complaints from younger concertgoers, especially when the venue is hosting a national act.

“They’re really bummed because they may be 19 or 20 and we cannot let them in, and that’s a bummer for us, too,” he said.

To respect liquor laws during all-ages events, Club Congress used to put up a net, dividing the bar and the main performance area. Now, they simply sell alcohol in a separate room, which allows for a more positive atmosphere, Slutes said.

However, despite efforts to be open to all audiences, events held at venues like Club Congress and Solar Culture still go unheard of, and in the case of Solar Culture, under-attended. According to Eye, younger audiences aren’t motivated to explore the entertainment opportunities Tucson’s establishments provide, especially if the performance is by a lesser-known artist.

“People, they won’t come off the campus unless it’s something that’s really, you know, exciting for them,” Eye said. “It’s really hard to get one of those bands that everybody knows about, and it is very competitive in the market place. Bars want to get those bands.”

According to Slutes, all-ages venues like Solar Culture and Skrappy’s Tucson Youth Collective need enthusiasm from their audience. If more people attend their events, these establishments will be able to book better shows, and more of them, he said.

“Here are some places with great people and great venues who just need support,” Slutes said. “Get more involved and not just bitch about it.”

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