Students may be allowed into downtown entertainment venues

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July 12, 2006

Local college students returning in the fall might just have a new place to hang out downtown thanks to a set of relaxed rules regarding alcohol and underage music fans.

News 12 is on your side with what these new rules could mean.

After the recent grand opening of Blue Horse Music Hall, Commissioner Joe Bowles is strumming up a strategy to allow not just adults into the facility but music fans young and old.

"What we're doing is trying to create an atmosphere. When you have as many colleges in Augusta and the CSRA that we have...there's really no place for them to go and enjoy music," he said.

So Bowles and city attorney Steve Shepard have re-worded Augusta's current alcohol ordinance to allow underage patrons into downtown entertainment venues, just as they would be admitted at the Civic Center or Lake Olmstead Stadium.

Here are the criteria: The venue must have at least 250 seats, it must be located downtown, and its hours of operation must be centered on live entertainment.

Also, to be sure the venue is entertainment-driven, 50 percent of its revenue must come from ticket sales.

Some worry the ordinance would make it difficult to monitor underage drinking, but Bowles says managers know the consequences of serving to minors.

"They realize that first violation, it's a hefty fine, and the second violation, it's a loss of their alcohol license."

Bowles and Shepard have been working on this ordinance for nine weeks now. The Public Services committee has already approved it. Next week, the decision is up to the full Commission.