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Take a stand for all-ages music in Oregon.
One more time.

Support the OLCC’s plans to allow music venues to admit people under 21 by writing an email before Friday, March 7, 2008.

Even if you wrote a letter in 2007, you must write again now for your comments to count.

Click here to send an email to the OLCC.

Composing an original letter that expresses your unique point of view is of course best, even if it’s short, but if you don’t have time for that, we have written a boilerplate email that you can use. Feel free to make whatever changes or additions you’d like, as well as to pass it on to others. Just be sure to sign at the bottom, ideally including your address.

Your feedback should go to:
Jennifer Huntsman (Jennifer.Huntsman@state.or.us)
OLCC Rules Coordinator

Questions for us about this issue?
Email olcc@pdxpopnow.com

In December of 2007 the OLCC voted against changes to allow more music venues to put on all-ages shows. Thanks largely to your emails, they are now considering a new, almost identical, draft of the rule changes. We have until March 7, 2008 to write in expressing our support for these responsible, carefully considered rule changes and the good they would do our community.

EVEN IF YOU WROTE THE OLCC LAST YEAR, YOU MUST WRITE AGAIN FOR YOUR COMMENTS TO COUNT. YOUR LETTER DOES MATTER.

Click here to open up our suggested email in your mail client (e.g. Entourage, Mail)

Click here to see our suggested text for your email to the OLCC.

Click here to see some main points to mention if you write your own email.

Click here to read PDX Pop Now! Board Member Cary Clarke’s first article about this issue in The Portland Mercury. It’s a short summary of what’s going on, why it’s important, and what you can do.

Click here to read Cary’s new article about this issue in The Portland Mercury. It will explain how the December, 2007 OLCC vote went down, and what’s happening now in 2008.

Click here to see a .pdf of the OLCC’s Minor Postings Amendment Final Draft. The bit about the new Minor VI Posting is the most pertinent.

Click here to see a .pdf of a handy guide to minor postings that the OLCC put together.

Click here to see a .pdf of a draft of the OLCC’s guidelines on how control plans could look.

Testify! Come to a public meeting Friday, February 22 from 10am to noon at the OLCC headquarters (9079 SE McLaughlin). Need a ride? Email olcc@pdxpopnow.com

The Proposed Rule Change and What It Means to You

As much love as we at PDX Pop Now! have for the Portland music community, and as deep a pride as we feel to be a part of it, we know that we are collectively capable of so much more, if only Oregon’s outdated and ill-considered state liquor laws weren’t preventing people under 21 from participating fully in their local creative culture. Thankfully, the sorry state of affairs of all-ages music in Oregon – where kids, teenagers and college students are prohibited from attending most live music venues, and where it is all but impossible for all-ages venues and art spaces to stay open – could significantly improve by the end of this year if we make our support for young musicians and music-lovers known to the staff of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission by Friday, March 7, 2008.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) is considering changing its rules regarding admitting people under 21 to establishments that serve alcohol, but primarily serve another function, like music venues, theaters and other art spaces. In short, the proposed amendment to the Minor Postings rules would acknowledge that there is a difference between a bar and a live music venue.

The OLCC statutes governing underage access and exposure to alcohol are called Minor Postings rules, referring to the signs posted at alcohol-serving establishments indicating if and when people under 21 are allowed on the premises. By the deficient logic of the outdated, overly specific criteria set forth in the OLCC rules, most of the places that we know to be music venues first and foremost, but that also secondarily serve alcohol, are considered unfit for minors because they have dance floors, don’t have fixed seating, or consist of only one room. The proposed changes to the OLCC code include the introduction of a new type of minor posting for businesses like music venues, theaters, and art spaces that serve alcohol, but have a non-liquor-related primary function and, as such, are clearly not just bars. This new minor posting class would permit such multi-function spaces to serve alcohol and still admit minors, as long as they submit, get approval for, and enforce a control plan that effectively keeps drinks out of minors’ hands. Music venues applying for this new status would tailor a plan to meet their own unique needs, but, for the first time, the OLCC would be formally recognizing wristbands – the primary means for keeping minors away from alcohol at shows almost everywhere else in the country – as a legitimate control method. After all, why do we need age-segregating barriers at concerts, while Blazers fans at the Rose Garden can move freely in spite of beer sales.
The proposed amendments would not only permit music venues that are currently off-limits to minors to open their doors to them if they meet certain guidelines, but would also make it possible for venues that are already all-ages-friendly to sell liquor to adults if they apply for a license, thereby greatly increasing the likelihood that they will remain in business. It is important to understand that these amendments will not force alcohol-serving venues to admit minors; it will simply give them the option to do so. There will always be bars and liquor-centric venues in Oregon. These establishments are not in question here.

These changes would benefit not only music fans under 21, but also the rest of the music community that stands to gain from their enthusiasm, participation and patronage, including bands, labels, record stores, music teachers, t-shirt printers, and, of course, venues themselves. Moreover, allowing kids, teens and young adults to participate in their local creative communities as show-goers serves the public good, providing them with fun, safe entertainment, and encouraging civic involvement.

If all goes well, by the end of April 2008, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission will amend its rules to allow music venues to both admit people under 21 and sell alcohol, provided they can keep the one out of the hands of the other. By greatly increasing local teenagers’ and college students’ access to live music, this small regulatory change would have an enormously positive impact on everyone involved in Portland music, from fans to bands to venue owners, and helping to ensure that the OLCC adopts it is arguably the single most important thing that we can do to ensure the continued vibrancy, diversity and prosperity of our city’s music community. Portland needs more all-ages music options, and if we speak up, we just might get them.

Emails sent to OLCC Rules Coordinator Jennifer Huntsman (Jennifer.Huntsman@state.or.us) in support of these changes before March 7, 2008 will be duly noted. If you would like to testify in person, a public hearing will take place at OLCC headquarters (9079 SE McLoughlin Blvd.) 10am-Noon on Friday, February 22. If you need a ride, meet at the Musicians Union (325 NE 20th Ave.) at 9:00 am. Showing up to testify in person at the public hearing carries no more weight with the OLCC than writing an email, so there is no need to mobilize large numbers of people to come out. Let’s save that for when the commissioners vote in mid-April!

Suggested Email Text

To the commissioners and staff of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission:

I am writing to express my strong support for the Final Staff Draft of the proposed amendment to OLCC Chapter 845 regarding Minor Postings (845-006-0340). By creating a safe and responsible system to allow young people and families in Oregon greater access to arts and culture, these rule changes will have a tremendously positive impact on the lives of our state’s youths, artists, and small business owners. As a strong believer in the value of the performing arts, and the unique power that music has to engage young people and channel their energy, creativity and enthusiasm in a productive manner, benefiting not just themselves, but their communities, I urge you to adopt the revisions to the Minor Postings rules that your agency has so carefully crafted.

I recognize, of course, that the OLCC is not an arts advocacy organization, but rather a state agency charged with the heavy responsibility of regulating the sale of alcohol so as to protect the safety and welfare of Oregon’s citizens, including preventing minors from drinking or being exposed to a drinking environment. As it happens, however, the arts are an extremely effective tool with which to prevent underage drinking. As has consistently been shown, the best way to combat underage drinking, often driven by boredom and isolation, is to provide teenagers and young adults with more fun, safe, regulated recreational options, such as concerts, in supervised spaces like music venues. Our state is widely recognized as home to some of the most vibrant, diverse and inclusive music communities in the country, and we would do well to utilize that natural resource to engage teenagers and provide them with more outlets for their talents, be it as audience members, performers, organizers, journalists or fans. Unfortunately, the notable dearth of all-ages concerts and music venues in Oregon makes it very difficult for young people to be involved in their local creative communities. The adoption of the Number VI minor posting would change that, and this is an opportunity we cannot afford to pass up.

I do not believe that minors should be allowed in bars. On the other hand, they should be allowed in legitimate music venues, art spaces and theaters, even if alcohol is available for adults, as long as stringent precautions such as those under consideration are taken to prevent minors from obtaining it. In spite of serving liquor, many music venues are no more similar to bars than are restaurants. The proposed Number VI minor posting and the OLCC-approved control plans they require present an effective and comprehensive mechanism by which music venues and other arts facilities could allow young people and families to enjoy their cultural offerings, while still serving alcohol to adults.

In point of fact, the OLCC has already seen that control plans can be implemented in music venues to successfully prevent underage drinking and exposure to a drinking environment, such as at the number of performing arts facilities, movie theaters and “dance halls” which are technically “unposted with control plan” because they do not currently fit into any of the outdated, overly narrow posting categories offered in the current Minor Postings rules. Moreover, systems similar to – and in many cases more flexible than – the one made possible by control plans and the Minor VI posting in the current OLCC proposal are in place in diverse and numerous states across the nation, including Colorado, New York, Texas and California. National studies do not show increased incidence of underage drinking in these states.

Formalizing this already proven practice would make enforcement and inspection easier by making room in the rules for the many types of mixed-use facilities which are becoming increasingly common in our state. The current rules, riddled with perplexing, hyper-specific and antiquated verbiage, are so difficult to decipher that many licensees are not even able to clearly understand what their options regarding minors are. In this light, the proposed amendments are necessary insomuch as they make the OLCC rules more transparent, coherent and intelligible, thereby better serving the public interest.

In addition to the aforementioned benefits, allowing more venues to put a control plan in place and hold all-ages concerts would be a boon to local musicians – most of all, those who are under 21 themselves. We do Oregon’s young, student musicians a gross disservice not only by failing to provide them with the opportunity to play for their underage peers in a professional environment, such as can only be found in the legitimate music venues from which said peers are currently prohibited, but also by denying them the opportunity to witness the vast majority of concerts that take place in our state. Seeing professional musicians play live is an essential part of education and training for young musicians, and they currently have extremely limited options to do so.

Adult performers would likewise relish more opportunities to play for young music fans, as they are historically dedicated, informed and enthusiastic listeners. Greater exposure to a young audience would no doubt lead to increased album and merchandise sales which would be a welcome development not only for bands, but for Oregon’s many music-service businesses specializing in the manufacturing of Cds, customized t-shirts and other merchandise. More importantly, affording musicians over and under 21 opportunities to perform for each other and interact would make possible artistic partnerships and mentorships that would be unlikely to develop under the current Minor Postings rules’ which render most concerts off-limits to young people. It is difficult to overstate the importance for teenagers to have positive relationships with adult role models.

If approved, implemented in an even-handed fashion, and applied reasonably and fairly, the proposed amendments to the OLCC Minor Postings rules (845-006-0340) – notably the introduction of the Number VI minor posting and the recognition of a diversity of effective, valid control measures – will decidedly increase young Oregonian’s access to music in a safe setting. In voting yes on the proposed amendments, the commissioners would not only be doing justice by young people’s interest in and talent for the arts, but would also be recognizing the value of providing them with positive, fun and rigorously regulated recreational options as a valuable tool to combat boredom and alienation, which all too often lead to substance abuse and trouble of other kinds. The arts can be a powerful force for good in the lives of young people. For this reason, we owe it to them to amend the OLCC Minor Postings rules in the responsible, rational fashion that the staff has so diligently laid out.

Thank you for taking the time to so thoroughly consider this important matter.

Sincerely,
Name
Address

Some Email Bullet Points

- The proposed rule changes are good for teen health, local artists, small businesses, and our community as a whole.

- Providing young people with more safe, regulated, engaging recreational opportunities like concerts channels their energy and enthusiasm in a positive direction.

- Teen drinking is often the result of boredom and isolation, and granting young people access to more arts and culture will significantly reduce both of those risk factors.

- Teenagers are far more likely to drink and be exposed to a drinking environment by raiding their parents’ liquor cabinet, or going to an unsupervised party, than by attending a concert at a legitimate music venue.

- Seeing music performed live is an essential part of education and training for young musicians, and they currently have very limited options to do so.

- An alcohol-serving music venue or theater is no more a bar than is an alcohol-serving restaurant.

- The OLCC staff has stated that these rule changes will improve the efficiency and functionality of their enforcement and inspection efforts.

- This is not a radical proposal. Through the Minor VI posting, the rule changes will formalize, make enforceable and render transparent the control plans at establishments governed by control plans that allow minors to be present while alcohol is served to adults.

- Many states, such as New York, California, Texas and Colorado, have similar, and in many cases more progressive, policies regarding minors at music venues, and national data does not show an increased incidence of teen drinking in these states.

- Allowing young people into more concerts will benefit local musicians who currently have very limited opportunities to perform for them. This will benefit not only the musicians, but local music-related businesses, such as record stores, CD manufacturers and garment makers.

Questions?

Email us: olcc@pdxpopnow.com

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