Potential Responses to Arguments
Against All-Ages Access

It is dangerous to have underage people in bars with regard to risk of underage drinking, predatory threat from older adults, and violent crime.

Music venues which are required to enforce a strict system of checking IDs, providing wristbands and/or clear identification of minor vs. non-minor, are a safe and regulated space for young people to participate in something that is positive. The risk for danger is more prevalent in larger venues as it can be difficult to monitor larger crowds effectively. Alcohol flows more freely at large arenas, music festivals, sporting events, and even bowling alleys. The small local venue is a safe and intimate space where drinking underage will not be tolerated under any circumstance.

Additionally, all-ages shows are currently happening consistently at these same venues. Venues are just as safe at 11 p.m. than at 8 p.m. At venues not affected, such as Wooly’s, minors are allowed to stay after 9 p.m. in an environment that is extremely similar to the Vaudeville Mews.

Adults don’t want kids in bars. Kids can be loud, obnoxious, disrespectful and self-absorbed.

These "kids" are actually more like young adults than you think. At age 18, you are considered an adult with all the responsibilities and rights that go along with it.

Secondly, drunk adults can be just as obnoxious if not more than a mature 20-year-old. Young people need to be around adults more often who model appropriate public behavior. We’re not doing them any good by pushing them out to find other (perhaps less safe) forms of entertainment and leisure. Young people will feel more respected if we actually want them there rather than them having to sneak in.

I don’t want my kids out past 10 p.m.

If you don’t want your 16-year-old out past 10 p.m., that is between them and the parent. The venue should not be responsible for enforcing personal curfews. Similarly, the curfew for anyone under 21 will be 11:30 p.m., which is a reasonable end-time for many shows.

What about the venues that don’t want minors at their shows?

Venues always have the option of 21+ only shows. This is done by Wooly’s who is exempt from the ordinance. This can be done with later shows that extend past 11:30 p.m.

We already have a thriving music scene in Des Moines with evidence of growth.

This is true. The momentum for the Des Moines music scene is in our favor. However, the music scene needs to thrive for all demographics, not just those that are already spoken for. Although there is evidence of growth, there is always room to grow, because the music scene will never be perfectly inclusive or thriving unless the status quo is continually challenged. Touring bands with a younger fan base are playing Minneapolis, Omaha, and Iowa City instead of Des Moines due to this all ages restriction. This is resulting in impact on attendance by causing loyal music fans to travel to these shows and is a net of Des Moines dollars rolling out of town. It also gives young people the impression that Des Moines doesn’t want them here. We need to retain our youth after graduation, attract college students to Des Moines, and give them something to do to show we value their interests. Growth does not mean all problems are solved.

Cities with vibrant music scenes rely heavily upon those under 21 to consistently reach successful attendance numbers. If the city wants to continue a future of live entertainment inside the city limits, the restriction needs to be lifted. Otherwise a majority of live entertainment in the city will move to the suburbs, such as West Des Moines, which does not have this ordinance.

Why don’t we just open more music venues that don’t serve alcohol?

In looking at a model venue, one can see that past attempts have been unsuccessful. Yes, they’ve catered to kids and only served soda, but then they weren’t attracting a wide-ranging audience and relied heavily on only one portion of the population to stay afloat. We need to allow and attract BOTH kids and adults for these businesses to survive. Venues thrive on alcohol sales that sometimes could make up 2/3 of their income. 

Small venues, like those affected in Des Moines (Vaudeville Mews, Lefty's Live Music, Noce, and Gas Lamp), simply cannot adopt a business model that doesn't allow for the sale of liquor without having to raise entry prices. Smaller venues tend to also double as bars that cater to a wide range of the population. Sometimes these venues may be the only opportunity for a young person to feasibly (1) afford the cover charge and (2) experience local/intimate live music. Many of the venues that don’t serve alcohol to the percentage level of smaller venues (i.e. Hoyt Sherman, Civic Center, Wells Fargo, Wooly’s) are not necessarily affordable for most young people age 16-21. They are more likely to spend $5 at Vaudeville Mews to see their favorite local band on a Friday night than $60-100 on a larger and less intimate show.

It’s not an “entertainment exemption for bars,” it’s an “age exemption for music venues.”

There plenty of all-ages shows already in place.

This is true. However, venues are strained to curate all-ages shows with the time restriction. Many touring bands are unwilling to play before 9pm so they just avoid our city altogether, limiting the options for all ages shows because they then can’t play to their target audience. Early shows still put kids out on the streets later at night and/or push late shows even later, which upsets adults. Many adults don’t come to the early shows, so venues lose money by trying to support underage music lovers. Des Moines needs to cater to both demographics simultaneously. Venues can’t feasibly continue splitting shows between early and late. It has been found that show times occurring between 7pm - 11:30 pm cater to young adults, parents, the venue, and artists alike. We agree with parents that kids shouldn't be out past 11:30-midnight and we want to adjust the ordinance to reflect this need for more mid-range shows.

I didn’t have all ages shows growing up and I turned out okay.

Young people who lack the exposure to quality live music are limited in their opportunity to continue as repeat customers of local live music. Similarly, young musicians and other creatives are not as likely to contribute to the music scene if they’ve never been exposed to it. “Audience development must begin long before young people reach university age. Tomorrow’s music fans are developing their entertainment tastes today.” This law was not in place when past generations grew up. Increasingly young people are paying for music and want to experience live music. We need to give them an outlet.

There must be a reason we have an ordinance in place, why mess with it now?

The ordinance is hugely outdated and places an unfair advantage for venues who depend on concession sales to survive are the only ones who can meet the ordinance of 50% non-alcohol sales. Soda sales are never going to reach 50% even with ticket sales. Drinking age people spend 3 times as much on alcohol as kids do on sodas (more money to spend, alcohol just costs more, plus generally more consumption) – there needs to be an even playing field. 50% was set in the 1960s to apply to taverns/restaurants, so the rule is a bit outdated.

The ordinance on dancing was written during WWII and was designed to target private clubs that were operating outside of the licensing process. It was one of many ways the city tried to crack down on the Key Clubs that were targeting the soldiers stationed at Fort Des Moines.

Several years ago, a one-year experimental “music venue” exemption was allowed for The House of Bricks (now Streetcar 209). The only requirement for this variance was that the venue had to host at least 180 music events during the year. The House of Bricks completed the one-year trial exemption with no reported issues. Due to unclear political reasons and pressure from the police department, the city council choose not to permanently adopt the exemption for venues meeting the designated “music venue” criteria. This inaction, with the combination of other outlying factors, caused the historic House of Bricks to close.