Facing The Music

The Debate Over All-Ages Shows Draws To An End ... But The Battle Isn'T Over

Christie Chisholm
6 min read
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The debate over whether or not to serve alcohol at all-ages shows began early this spring and will be debated on Aug. 26, when a hearing before the state alcohol and gaming commission is scheduled in the City Council chambers.

Mayor Martin Chavez, in an attempt to curb Downtown violence and underage drinking, proposed that the state pass a law to ban alcohol from all-ages venues where 50 percent of the revenue comes from the sale of alcohol. His proposal has been met with support from the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). Despite a recent editorial in the Albuquerque Journal that stated the mayor's proposal has “Gov. Bill Richardson's blessing,” when the Alibi attempted to confirm this, the governor's office referred inquiries to Rachel O'Connor, state DWI Coordinator, who sounded ambivalent, saying, “The governor is committed to reducing underage drinking … we're going to wait and see what happens at the hearings.”

Not everyone embraces the mayor's initiative.

Joe Anderson, owner of the Launchpad and Sunshine Theater, is one person whose frustration with the mayor's proposal is definitive. Anderson said he believes the mayor's proposal is based on false assumptions that teens have access to alcohol, and said he has found no evidence of a correlation between all-ages shows, alcohol and violence in the Downtown entertainment district.

John Walsh, APD spokesperson, said all-ages shows are a concern for APD because “In any venue where there is a high concentration of folks and alcohol there is [the potential for violence],” and added, “It is irresponsible to mix underage kids where drinking is taking place.” Walsh was unable to cite any relevant incidents of violence at all-ages shows in the Downtown area that were related to alcohol consumption among minors and adults, explaining that gathering such data is a long and arduous process.

Anderson said that while trying to curb what could be nonexistent problems, the city may lose one of the most valuable assets it has: a vibrant live music scene that took more than 10 years of community activism to create.

Anderson added that other cities in the country that are known for their live music scenes, such as San Francisco and Austin, have successfully mixed all-ages shows with alcohol for years, adding that neighbors Texas and Arizona do not prohibit alcohol sales at small, all-ages venues comparable to the Launchpad. On the other hand, APD's Walsh said there was precedent for banning alcohol at all-ages shows, as other cities, such as Minneapolis, had already passed such legislation.

Deborah James, the mayor's spokesperson, addressed Anderson's concern by emphasizing that the goal of the mayor's proposal was never to eliminate all-ages shows, but rather, to keep kids safe. Yet Anderson said kids are already safe, especially at small live music venues such as the Launchpad that are being targeted by the proposal. As evidence of this, Anderson explained that the Launchpad has some of the strictest alcohol enforcement in the city, as well as the least number of citations. In fact, Anderson's policy is so strict that any underage person caught with alcohol is not only immediately moved from the premises, but also banned from ever returning.

Since Anderson took ownership of the venue in July of last year, he hasn't received a single citation pertaining to the distribution of alcohol to minors. In fact, contrary to what was printed in a recent article in the Albuquerque Journal, which stated that the Launchpad received six citations for such activity in the last two-and-a-half years, the Launchpad hasn't received a single citation for the distribution of alcohol to a minor during that time.

Here it is important to make a distinction. According to Jim Plagens, deputy director of the state Special Investigations Division, there is a difference between administrative citations (citations given to a business when they distribute alcohol to a minor) and non-traffic citations (citations given to individuals while on business property, which includes minors in the possession of alcohol). Whether or not a business is given an administrative citation when a minor is found with alcohol depends on the circumstances, which are difficult to differentiate, said Plagens.

Within that context, Plagens said the Launchpad received zero administrative citations since January of 2003, but six non-traffic citations were written on Launchpad property. This, in comparison to venues like the Journal Pavilion, which received 11 administrative citations and 281 non-traffic citations in the same time period. In fact, a Megadeth concert on July 23 at the Journal Pavilion racked up 19 non-traffic citations in one evening. The Journal Pavilion, along with similar venues such as Isotopes Stadium and Tingley Coliseum, would be excluded from the mayor's proposal, as less than 50 percent of their gross receipts come from liquor sales.

City Councilor Eric Griego, who is running for mayor this year and represents the Downtown area, emphasized that safety for adolescents is extremely important, but offered that it needed to be achieved in a way that maintains the health and vitality of Albuquerque's music scene. To accomplish this, Griego has proposed a new city Department of Youth, which would focus on implementing an array of health, sports, arts and music initiatives. The proposal for the new department will be heard at the Aug. 15 Council meeting and is expected to pass.

“What I'm hoping to propose is a real open, honest dialogue on this to get to a solution; not a political solution, not a politically expedient solution, but a real solution that's going to keep kids safe but also keep live music thriving Downtown,” said Griego.

Still, Anderson isn't satisfied. “These kids really have something,” he said. “When I was growing up in Albuquerque we didn't have good all-ages shows. Good bands would come through town and I'd miss them because I was under 21. People don't understand what they have now, but they'll miss it when it's gone.”


If you have something to say about this issue, let the New Mexico Alcohol and Gaming Division know about it.

August 26


Vincent E. Griego Council Chambers

Albuquerque/Bernalillo Government Center

One Civic Plaza, Fifth Street and Marquette

Proceedings begin at 9 a.m.

Call 346-0660 ext. 255 with news tips. E-mail your guest editorial or letter to letters@alibi.com. To contact the author, e-mail christie@alibi.com.

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