Night of the Living Ban
Mayor wants to resurrect a restriction on venues that serve alcohol at all-ages shows. Or does he?
By Simon McCormack
In the aftermath of the Club 7 raid, it’s become increasingly unclear what policy Mayor Martin Chavez thinks should be adopted regarding the sale of alcohol at all-ages events. It's also unclear how far such a ban would reach.
Chavez ruffled some feathers in the music community last week when he announced he wanted a statewide ban on serving alcohol at all-ages shows. Two days later, he seemed to reconsider.
Chavez' spokesperson Deborah James said Friday, Aug. 15, that the mayor is committed to making sure Club 7 stays closed for good, but he's not pursuing any kind of state- or citywide ban at this time. "All of the mayor's efforts right now are concentrated on this one establishment," James said. "He is not concerned about the club owners who are following the laws. He's concerned with people who are breaking the rules."
But that same Friday, the city filed a request calling for a restriction on “mixed-ages” clubs that serve alcohol. Venues such as Ralli's 4th Street Pub and Grill, Sunshine Theater, El Rey and the Launchpad could be categorized that way, as well. Events where alcohol-consuming adults can mix with minors are a nuisance, the city said.
It's unfortunate that a single incident can affect other establishments.
Ana Gallegos y Reinhardt, a consultant to the city on Warehouse 508
James reiterated the following Monday that the mayor's focus is on Club 7 and said she wouldn't speculate about a ban before it was discussed with the city's legal team.
The proposal comes on the heels of a raid on Club 7 earlier this month. Officers said they found ecstasy pills, an overcapacity crowd and minors in a restricted area meant for patrons 21 and older.
The state Regulation and Licensing Department brought five charges against Club 7, including: sale to an intoxicated person, sale to a minor and minor in a restricted area. At the time of this writing, no arrests were made in connection with the raid. Club 7 owner Aleks Mkhitarian declined to comment.
In 2005, Chavez pursued a citywide restriction on all-ages events that saw heavy opposition and was never brought to fruition.
When talk of such a restriction was resurrected last week, Chavez initially spoke of taking the issue to the Legislature and making it statewide. Chief Public Safety Officer Pete Dinelli said at the time the ban would focus on all-ages events that happened in "confined areas usually used for bars and lounges." Dinelli said this would not include venues such as Journal Pavilion or the city-run Kiva Auditorium and Convention Center. He wouldn’t say specifically which clubs might be affected by a ban, but added, "When kids come in contact with adults who have been drinking, it creates a predatory situation.”
He changed his tune a few days later when the winds in City Hall shifted. "All our efforts are focused on Club 7," he said.
The Alibi contacted many clubs in the state that an alcohol ban at all-ages shows would affect, but most refused to comment.
Joe Anderson bristled at the prospect of fighting another all-ages ordinance. Anderson, who runs the Launchpad and Sunshine Theater, says he makes sure his clubs are safe. “They wasted a lot of taxpayer money the last time this happened,” he said. “I’m infuriated I might have to go through this whole thing again.”
An Albuquerque club manager, who wished to remain unnamed to avoid being targeted by law enforcement, said an alcohol ban at all-ages shows is unnecessary. "There are already penalties in place for serving people who are under 21," he said. "Government should regulate businesses, but it shouldn't get in the way all the time."
According to the state Regulation and Licensing Department, Sunshine Theater, the Launchpad and Ralli's 4th Street Pub and Grill have not received citations for serving alcohol to minors within the last year; neither have the Convention Center, Journal Pavilion or Kiva Auditorium.
Though Club 7 was the catalyst for Chavez' most recent call for a ban, it's unclear how big a role alcohol played in what officers say happened there. There is one charge of selling to a minor, but Sgt. Mark Kmatz of the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department said no minors were noticeably under the influence of alcohol. "It's hard to say, because one of our key indicators of alcohol intoxication is odor," Kmatz said. "With so many people packed in together, it's hard to tell who's making what odor."
Chavez has said over the years that he encourages all-ages events. James pointed to the mayor's support of Warehouse 508, an all-ages, no-alcohol venue, as proof of his commitment. "The mayor wants to have venues open for kids to express themselves through art," James said. "What he doesn't want is what happened at Club 7."
Ana Gallegos y Reinhardt, who is a consultant to the city on Warehouse 508, said "It's unfortunate that a single incident can affect other establishments. It makes the whole community vulnerable when something like this happens."
Gallegos y Reinhardt, who is also the executive director of the all-ages, no-alcohol venue Warehouse 21 in Santa Fe, said club owners know there are risks when booze and youth coexist. But, she added, there are people doing it the right way. "A lot of establishments do the best they can to safeguard their clientele in those situations.”
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