Room 210

MAP Practice Nov. 10, 2006

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Published November 9, 2006



That is the emotion coursing through the local music community this week.

More than 33,000 people in this city voted Tuesday in favor of banning anyone under 21 from establishments where alcohol is served.

Though a loophole in the new law means young adults and minors will still be allowed into many music venues, the overall fact remains: By a 60 percent margin, the people of Springfield approve of this ban.

It's really not surprising. To some, it's infuriating. To many others, disappointing.

But mostly, there is frustration. Why?

Because many see it as a slap against art, against the burgeoning downtown music and arts scenes, and against the vast majority of young people who are responsible and play by the rules when they go to a rock show. That's not to mention the venues, which by and large play by the rules.

The reality is that this law was aimed mainly at a couple of dance clubs, but every other night-life spot is now caught in the fallout.

There's frustration because of how the ban's proponents view young people. They believe if someone younger than 21 is inside a place where alcohol is served, then that person's top priority will be to obtain a drink, like a cat attracted to a ball of yarn. The DWI Task Force and social conservatives who backed this idea did not even entertain the idea that maybe --just maybe --a 19-year-old college student who can vote and die for his or her country might want to see their favorite band or take a date out dancing. They don't trust the youth.

Nor do they trust the people who run the bars. Supporters framed the debate as a matter of public health versus wicked business owners who are making money off the backs of "kids" by ushering them into dark rooms and shoving drinks in their hand.

If you believe music venues are making loads of cash by selling beer to 18-year-olds, please call my number below. I have some sweet swamp land for sale.

There's frustration because downtown gentrification has already killed some live music venues, and this law certainly won't make it attractive for new ones to open.

Even though a loophole exists (places that derive less than 60 percent of revenue from alcohol sales are exempt), more change is coming. The margin of victory has created a mandate, and supporters will try to sew up the holes. But then we'll be back to the same problem: asking which places are exempt from this moralistic legislation.

What about Hammons Field, the Shrine Mosque or T.G.I. Friday's? Ah, that pesky gray area. One thing's for sure: when the debate heats up again, it's going be frustrating — for both sides.


Essay Questions

1. How does the author feel about the decision made by Springfield voters Tuesday? Explain the effect he believes this will have on the arts and music community.


2. Though it is not mentioned in the column, from reading it what reasons do you imagine supporters of the law had for passing it?


3. Describe your feelings about the central issue of the column. Should those under 21 be allowed to enter Springfield bars?