Let the spin begin: Councilmember Jim Graham has changed his tune slightly on banning minors from clubs that serve alcohol.
In this morning’s Washington Post, punk and go-go loving kids found that the Ward 1 councilmember was talking up a possible ban on mixing kids and clubs. Graham’s idea of a legislative fix stems from this past weekend’s tragic incident at Smarta/Broadway in which 17-year-old Taleshia Ford was killed Saturday morning after a patron’s gun popped off during “an altercation with a bouncer,” according to the Post.
Graham told the Post that the fact of nightclubs policing underage drinkers without real legislation was unacceptable. “This has got to stop,” he told the newspaper.
But when asked this afternoon about his proposed ban, Graham backed down slightly from his heated rhetoric. “I don’t think we’re barring anyone,” he said. And then, Graham changed his mind. Sort of. He said he was considering barring under-21 patrons from bars and nightclubs.
Graham also said he was looking at the security issue. In the case of this past weekend’s slaying, he says the club rented its space out to the go-go band and that the event was organized and promoted by the band. Security, he says he was told by the club’s owner, was provided by the band, with the band getting the door’s proceeds and the club netting the money from the alcohol sales.
Graham says his legislation would not affect the 9:30 Club and certain other concert venues because its class of operating license would be excluded. But, as it stands, the Black Cat would be affected.
Black Cat owner Dante Ferrando says he’s reserving judgment until he sees whatever legislation Graham finally settles on. “I’m definitely concerned about it,” he says. “D.C.’s underground music scene has been a very vibrant scene that has had a huge impact on a lot of people. I do think that something like this would damage it severely.”
“There’s a great thing about being able to raise your kid around music,” Ferrando adds. “It’s already been taken out of the schools. I’d hate to see live music being removed from kids’ lives….I have a daughter and I’d hope to be allowed to bring her to shows. She’s only three. She’s into the Beatles. But she’s been to Pancake Mountain here and has gotten on stage. There is a scene of parents who are into music with their kids that is very positive and a good thing. I’d hate to see that destroyed.”
Meanwhile, D.C. live-music fans have started a petition, which reads in part as follows:
Act to Oppose Proposed Ban of All-Ages Venues
Following the murder of a 17-year-old in a club on 9th St NW this weekend City Council member Jim Graham will be proposing legislation to ban minors from entering nightclubs that serve alcohol. He says in an email to constituents (below) that he wants to introduce emergency legislation in the next week, which would require the consent of at least 7 of the 11 sitting councilmembers. It can be tough to round up that many votes, but since underage club patrons can’t vote and many don’t live in the District we should all let the City Council know this is a terrible idea.
There are at least three things you can do to this effect: 1. Call/email Graham & the Council Chair Vincent Gray (who schedules votes) to voice your opposition 2. Call/email Graham and his fellow committee members (in case the emergency legislation gets knocked back to the committee for markup) 3. Call/email all Council members and tell them to vote against the upcoming emergency legislation: http://www.dccouncil.washington.dc.us/ contact.html
If you live in Ward 1, note that in your call/email to Graham (south of Spring St NW, north of Florida Ave NW, east of Rock Creek Park and west of North Capitol St). * Example Call/Email Script *”Hi. My name is ____________. I am a resident of Ward __ [or a frequent patron of _______ club/bar]. I am calling concerning Jim Graham’s proposed legislation to ban minors from entering establishments that serve liquor. This bill will prevent already underserved young people from enjoying live music and dancing at clubs like the Florida Market Lounge and Black Cat that derive their revenue from alcohol sales. Underage music fans and alcohol have coexisted at these venues for decades. Banning young people will not prevent random acts of violence, but it will deprive them of a necessary and overwhelmingly safe space to congregate, connect and enjoy live music. Please tell the councilmember to vote against this unnecessary and harmful legislation. Thank you.”