Local Music Advocates Push for Minors to Be Able to Experience Live Concerts at More Venues

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Should people under the age of 21 be able to experience live music past nine o'clock at venues where alcohol is served? It's a question that keeps popping up, and it's back once again.

"What makes nine o'clock the magic hour? That we all lose our minds and start giving away booze to minors? Everything would work exactly the same if it went to 11, 11:30. It would just work a couple hours longer," said Anne Mathey, owner of Lefty’s Live Music in Des Moines.

That's one of the main arguments for changing the city ordinance, according to owners of live music and entertainment venues like Lefty's. But at a workshop where the issue was discussed on Monday afternoon, most city council members and the police chief were less than sympathetic to the idea.

"Maybe the conversation is all wrong," said Chief Dana Wingert. "Maybe the conversation shouldn't be well, we promise everything will go fine if we put kids in the bars with adults, and maybe the conversation should be let's find a venue where these kids can go and enjoy themselves and either play live music, listen to live music, and not even have to worry about that liability of having them mixed with adults."

Mathey found the discussion frustrating on many levels. For one thing, she found the use of the word "kids" misleading.

“We’re not talking about kids, we’re not talking about 12-year-olds, we’re not talking about nine-year-olds," she said. "We’re talking about 18-year-olds. We’re talking about college students. We’re talking about people who are old enough to drive, who are old enough to go to the military, who are old enough to vote.”

As for the idea of having minors listen to music at venues that don't serve alcohol, Mathey said, "I think it doesn't really have a lot of basis in reality. I don't know why we're talking about a mythological minor venue that no one has expressed interest in opening, no one knows how to profit from. One of the arguments the police chief made was that, well, if you know most of your profits come from alcohol, then obviously alcohol is the draw, and I guess I took kind of offense to that and mentioned in the meeting that's likening popcorn being the draw at a movie theater," said Mathey, arguing that live music and entertainment is the draw, not alcohol.

As it stands now, people under the age of 21 can only stay at places like Lefty's until nine o'clock, which means they miss out on great music at an affordable price.

"It affects the overall economy, and then that in turn affects the cultural attractiveness of the city," said Molly Brandt, Advocacy Coordinator at the Des Moines Music Coalition. "People have said, people within the city, and the city I know has expressed that they want to make sure this is a more inclusive and culturally diverse and vibrant place. This can't happen unless we let young people experience some of that culture."

The city has agreed to continue to discuss and meet with the stakeholders involved to see if both sides can reach a solution.