If younger revelers are allowed back on Chippewa Street, it won’t happen quickly, lawmakers said Friday.
Two bars are asking the Common Council to once again allow college-age customers to come to the Chippewa entertainment district on Thursday nights.
But if the Council wants to go in that direction, the process will likely take a month, and would involve input from all bar owners, neighbors and police officers, Council members said, warning that there will be no quick fix.
The Council voted to ban underage patrons on Chippewa in April. As a compromise between competing interests on the strip, the ordinance included a provision that allowed customers ages 18 to 20 in bars and clubs on Thursday nights for six months. The provision expired on Oct. 3 and since then, bars in the area have been restricted to admitting customers who are at least 21 every night of the week.
Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen, who brokered the compromise and represents Chippewa, said he didn’t hear from any club in the area that wanted to allow the younger crowd to continue to visit the bars on Thursday nights until after they were banned.
Chippewa’s Lux nightclub notified the media that it had a deal with the Council that would once again allow patrons ages 18 to 20 inside the club on Thursdays, and that the change would be made next week.
But lawmakers said there was no such deal.
“We can’t make a decision based on only one club’s desire,” Pridgen said.
As of Friday, no legislation to allow younger patrons on Thursdays was filed with the Council, and lawmakers said there was none written.
Lux manager Lou Bax said he is looking for the same rules applied to other bars in the city – which can admit 18-year-olds every night of the week.
Business on Thursday night was terrible, he said.
Lux has a cover charge of $15 for underage men and $10 for underage women, while patrons 21 and older are charged $5.
“It’s a ton of money that we would lose,” Bax said. “How would they like to lose revenue in their paycheck for a month?” he said of the Council members.
The club does not permit underage patrons to purchase alcohol, and the club employs security guards and off-duty police officers to assist with crowd control, Bax said.
Pridgen and Majority Leader Demone A. Smith said they didn’t appreciate Lux’s approach.
“Now there is almost a bully tactic because they missed a deadline,” Pridgen said. “That’s not fair.”
Every other piece of legislation has to follow a process, and this is no different, Smith said.
The clubs that wanted to extend college night should have started the process before the provision ended, Smith said.
“That’s like me forgetting about Election Day,” he said.
Prior to the ban ending, Pridgen said Lux’s owner told him the club wanted to appeal to an older crowd.
Regardless, all interested parties would need to be brought in before any vote was cast, Pridgen said.
Mark Croce, owner of several Chippewa establishments, said a younger crowd scares away older patrons, who migrate to other parts of the city.
“It’s done substantial damage to the street,” he said.
Johnson Park resident Anne Gareis said her street attracted crowds of 50 to 60 people on Thursday nights this summer and that at least three cars were vandalized.
“We’re used to putting up with a little noise from Chippewas, but this was extreme,” said Gareis, adding that the neighborhood was littered with fast-food bags and condoms.
Bayou night club is also in favor of reinstating college night, but it’s not clear how the majority of businesses and other stakeholders in the area fall on the issue.
Pridgen and Smith said they would be open to discussing keeping “commingling” – the practice of allowing younger and older patrons to mix in the same establishment – going on Thursday nights, but not without following the Council’s process, which would involve a public hearing and discussion in the Legislation Committee.
Pridgen has a meeting Tuesday with bar owners who want the ban lifted. Mayor Byron W. Brown said Friday that he would be open to discussing continuation of keeping Thursday night open to a younger crowd if the Council wanted to go in that direction.