For the best part of the noughties the government has been determined to stamp out underage drinking culture – so it was probably only a matter of time before music venues were sucked into the Great British Binge Battle.
Just recently, an under-18’s gig by Scottish ska band Dead Sea Souls was cancelled after twenty fans failed a breathalyser test on entry. The Store in Edinburgh, like a growing number of venues across the UK, has introduced the strict new policy for underage gigs – covering both bands and audience.
Drunken teenagers: ban this scourge!
While Edinburgh appears to be the worst affected so far, with popular destinations such as Cabaret Voltaire, Studio 24 and Corn Exchange among those admitting to using breathalysers, the practice has also been adopted by 02 Academy Sheffield and O2 ABC Glasgow.
Jack Wright, owner of The Store, explained the clampdown thus: “To ensure we can provide live music entertainment for under-18s, we must adhere to the licensing laws.
“These include ‘securing public safety’ and ‘protecting children from harm’. Breathalysing is considered best practice according to the police and licensing officers. Can you imagine what the story would have been if we had let in twenty drunken kids and they caused a fight or fell over and hurt themselves?”
Hmm. By that logic you’d also have to ban mosh pits. Is this really necessary? These are gig venues we’re talking about, not day care nurseries. Isn’t it all a bit… puritanical?
Crowd-surfing: down with this sort of thing
As OTT and police-state as it sounds, expect this to come to a gig near you soon. The breathalyser trend is gathering speed, and has resulted in the Academy Music Group, who own thirteen O2-sponsored venues across UK, releasing a statement.
A spokeswoman said: “All of our venues nationwide take the protection of children very seriously, thus regular checks are a paramount to our duty of care. We work closely with local councils and the police, who from time to time may request the use of breathalysers as an additional measure.”
It’s obvious what’s happening here. The venues haven’t initiated this – they’re being forced into it by over-zealous local authorities hell-bent on pushing their crackdown on youth drinking.
Booze. Lovely booze
This war on fun needs to stop. When I was 16, there were few places you could go where you could get away with being a bit tipsy. A gig was one of them.
OK, if you turn up off your face, no matter how old you are, you should have no complaints upon being turned away. But to be denied entry for being merrily drunk is a disgrace, and about as far away from the spirit of rock and roll as you can get.
Such killjoy tactics harm music, too. In recent years, small independent venues have seen their budgets squeezed and their patrons dwindle. Many have closed down. Heavy-handed regulations like these will only compound the financial problems facing the industry.
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And with more and more venues being corporately owned and sponsored, we’re in danger of sanitising the joy out of live music – replacing sticky floors and drunken kids with a bland, middle-aged world of polite punters, cash machines and well-scrubbed surfaces.
Where is all this heading? The Kleenex 100 Club? The Cillit Bang Barrowland? It’s enough to drive you to drink…