The Performing Arts Venue License will be voted on by the City Council next month, and questions are being raised as to whether the downtown bar scene will be drastically changed if the Madison enacts the ordinance this summer.
The license was drafted in hopes of offering those who are underage more nighttime options by allowing patrons between the ages of 18 and 20 into taverns with live entertainment including bands, DJs or comedians.
Bars such as State Street Brats and the Kollege Klub do not plan on catering to a younger crowd if the ordinance is passed.
“It doesn’t really affect us at all,” State Street Brats manager Nathan Quella said. “The people who come here don’t really care if there would be a band here.”
Sue Crowley, director of the Policy Alternatives Community Education Project which works to reduce high-risk drinking on campus, said, although the ordinance aims to increase non-alcoholic nightly entertainment options for underage students, it is more fit for large establishments already offering live entertainment such as Luther’s Blues.
“We’re just hopeful that once it happens, there will be some takers. We are really hopeful some venues will take the opportunity to expand their client base,” Crowley said, adding Madison Avenue and Johnny O’s as possible taverns she believes may purchase the license.
According to Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, venues such as Luther’s Blues are able to currently hold 18+ nights if the bar serves non-alcoholic drinks throughout the night. The PAV license would allow them to cater to let an underage crowd into the bar while serving alcohol.
“I am very optimistic that once bar owners realize the value of this license, they will take advantage of it,” Verveer said, adding that the yearly fee is $250. “It literally would provide for the first time ever for … underagers to be allowed legally into their establishments.”
Although some bar owners feel underage patrons would not financially benefit their business, Verveer said bars could profit from cover charges and non-alcoholic drinks.
Owner of Bullfeather’s Dick Lyshek said the PAV license opens up possibilities for bar owners and patrons, but he does not know anyone who wants to deal with the logistics of the ordinance and the problems letting underage patrons into a bar may bring.
“I probably would get one just to have it available, just in case I have some desire or need to, but I don’t see me doing any underage nights,” Lyshek said. “It’s just something good [to have] in case something comes up or in case someone wants to throw a party with a band [at the bar].”
Kimia Lounge owner Kami Eshraghi said because the tavern already offers live music, he welcomes the possibility for a license that would allow more customers to enjoy his establishment.
“I’m really interested in making sure that more people have access to venues like mine,” Eshraghi said.
Verveer added it would be a “rotten shame” if taverns did not take advantage of the PAV license.
“It has been way too long since underagers have been able to take advantage of live music and other entertainment in our community,” Verveer said.