Opposition to a ban on younger patrons at Chippewa Street bars emerged Tuesday, when a group of bar employees attended a Common Council committee meeting to ask lawmakers to change course.
Council Member Darius G. Pridgen, meanwhile, said that until a provision allowing underage revelers on Thursday nights ended last week, as scheduled, he had not heard from one person in the bar business lobbying for it to be extended.
Supporters of allowing people between the ages of 18 and 20 to go to bars in the Chippewa district did not get a chance to address a Council committee because the item wasn’t on the agenda, but some of them had a lively exchange with two Council members in the hallway.
They said their business last Thursday, the first day since the ban took effect, was terrible.
Groups of college friends who hang out together all day won’t go to bars if some of them can’t get in, which can have an impact on attracting other patrons to a bar, said Peter Altholz, a part owner of Bayou nightclub.
“Unfairly targeting Chippewa Street is putting those bars, nightclubs and establishments at a competitive disadvantage to other bars, nightclubs, not only in the City of Buffalo but in the entire State of New York,” he said. “It killed Thursdays. Last Thursday was a ghost town.”
Pridgen, who represents the Ellicott District, said that he would meet with the bar owners.
Pridgen declined to take a position on the commingling issue Tuesday, and he said he was “blindsided” by the show of opposition to the ban.
No formal action was taken Tuesday. <INLINENOTE>
The part of a law that allowed customers between the ages of 18 and 20 to visit clubs and bars in the Chippewa Entertainment District on Thursday nights was set to end six months after it took effect in April, and the Council decided not to renew it.</INLINENOTE>
Before the Council passed legislation in March, underage patrons were allowed in bars in the district every night of the week. Upset business owners came to Pridgen, citing public safety issues caused by younger Chippewa visitors who were illegally served alcohol in some bars.
The Council allowed clubs to admit patrons between the ages of 18 and 20 only on Thursday nights, and only for six months, as a compromise. The law took effect in April.
Other clubs in the city aren’t affected by the legislation, and people who work in the Chippewa area said they must compete with bars in other districts that younger people can patronize.
“What we would like is just the same law that everybody else has, seven days a week,” said Lou Bax, manager of Lux.
If the Council were to begin the process of opening the Chippewa district up to younger patrons, it would follow the normal process of doing so, Pridgen said. That process would include hearing from all sides.
“In fairness, there are people on both sides of the issue,” Pridgen said.
The district is bounded by Tupper Street, Main Street, Elmwood Avenue and Seneca Street.