A lawsuit filed by two Chippewa Entertainment District bar owners strengthens the need to examine the effects of a recent rule keeping those under 21 from patronizing those establishments.
Daniel Valentine, who owns the Lux nightclub, and Adam March, owner of the Bayou nightclub, are fighting the ordinance that keeps underage patrons out of their establishments. They argue that it infringes on their right and ability to earn a living by restricting their business by barring adults under the age of 21 who have lawful purposes.
Colin Miller, 19, is named as a plaintiff. Defendants include Mayor Byron W. Brown, Common Council members, Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda and James Comerford Jr., commissioner of permits and inspections.
For some bar owners and young people old enough to vote and fight for this country but not old enough to legally drink, the ban stinks. But for those who hope for peace on the streets around the Entertainment District, the ban is welcome.
Underage patrons used to be allowed in bars in the district every night of the week. But they were blamed for a lot of the early morning disturbances that plagued the district. Upset business owners brought their complaints to Council Member Darius G. Pridgen, who represented the district at the time. Key figures in the district insisted that without new restrictions, the district would become a ghost town.
In April, the Common Council passed legislation prohibiting those under 21 years old from patronizing Chippewa Street bars, except on Thursdays, or “college nights,” when those between the ages of 18 and 21 were allowed inside bars after 10 p.m.
By October, anyone under 21 was prohibited from patronizing bars on any evening. Business owners began to complain again, this time because they said business had slowed to a crawl.
The truth of the matter is that controlling drinking by underage patrons is difficult under the “commingling” situation, especially if they enter an establishment with someone who is of drinking age. That legal “adult” may decide to slip drinks to an underage pal.
The ban on commingling was instituted for a good reason: to reduce the Chip Strip rowdyism. But killing the strip because bar owners can’t stay in business is not an acceptable outcome.
The commingling ban has been in effect long enough for a comprehensive look at its goals and results. It’s time for the Council to revisit the issue and gather input from all interested parties: bar owners, patrons, police and neighborhood leaders.