Thursday, August 03, 2006

Too Young to Listen?

In the early days of this blog, I wrote a post called Too Young to Jam?, where I vented my frustration with the (in my opinion) lazy owners of live music venues who wouldn't make the extra effort to make their shows available to listeners who had the misfortune of not yet having blown out 21 candles on their birthday cakes. And on the trip we took last week, I found out that some places have it even worse than we do in Texas.

It's really the only gripe I have about anything that went on in Washington (except the fact that the bus line didn't stop in front of our hotel--not an issue for me personally, but it made the band members more dependent on us van drivers than they were on other trips). The reason I found out about this whole thing was that we had a talented high-schooler in our band this summer, and she went on the trip with us; her mother came along, not necessarily as a chaperone per se, but because, hey, it was a chance to take a cool trip and hear her daughter perform in a unique setting. The student was thrilled when she found out that one of her favorite players would be making a club appearance up there, but rather dismayed to find out that he would be performing in one of the venues that was restricted to 21-and-up. But wait, she thought--Mom will be with me. That would work in Texas, but, as it turned out (after some phone calls by Mom), not in Washington.

This didn't make sense to me at first; after all, the performance would take place in a restaurant. Surely they don't keep people under 21 out of restaurants that serve alcohol, do they? You can't take the kids to Chili's? No way! But the answer turned out to be even more frustrating: Minors are only prohibited from places where alcohol is served when there is live music taking place.

No. This is Just. Not. Right.

It took quite a bit of Net searching to find the exact policy once I got back, but sure enough, here it is:

If a licensee wishes to have live music (including Karoake), patron dancing, entertainment, or contests involving physical participation by patrons in a dining area after 10 p.m., the licensee must either:
a) request board approval to reclassify the dining area to a lounge, thus restricting persons under 21 years of age; or
b) notify the Licensing and Regulation Division in writing at least 48 hours in advance that the sale, service, and consumption of liquor will end in the dining room after 10 p.m.

Per WAC 314-02-130, a licensee may prohibit persons under 21 years of age in their dining area earlier than 10 p.m.
(Source: Washington State Liquor Control Board Policy 1-02)
(Hmm, I wonder if anyone in the state legislature has actually been to a "Karoake" bar...)

As I said in the earlier post, there is no substitute for getting to hear live music when you're a musician in training, especially one who's learning jazz. It's hard enough for young players to experience this when so much of it takes place in clubs, but to restrict it from restaurants just because it's after ten o'clock at night, too? I just have to believe that it wasn't jazz performances that brought on this policy; some rock concert must have gotten too rowdy somewhere. I was happy to see that they do have a provision allowing musicians aged 18-20 to perform in clubs that would normally be off-limits to them...but still, that means their peers can't come hear them play.

There has to be a better way. Here in Texas, it's all in the hands of the venue owner; some will go the extra step (wristbands, X's made with Sharpies for underagers, etc.) to allow access to all ages, but this thing in Washington just seems lame to me, because the clubs don't even get the option. Granted, I'm never a fan of too much government to begin with, but this one hits close to the heart. And yes, some would say that it's not my place to visit another state and tell them how to run things, but I feel that access to live music is something that should be granted to all Americans, regardless of the state in which they reside.

As for our trip, our young player was lucky-the "stage" area in the restaurant at which the guy she wanted to see was playing was set up right next to an unused glass the sound wafted out onto the sidewalk, and she could see him clearly as well. But still, I had to rant a bit about the one bit of poor hospitality that was given to us for the entire trip.

I have a feeling this won't be the last time I post on this subject...

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