Alcohol offenses drive Belly Up to hold fewer under-21 shows |

Alcohol offenses drive Belly Up to hold fewer under-21 shows

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – A few bad apples have spoiled a whole bunch of fun for Belly Up Aspen patrons 20 and younger, according to club owner Michael Goldberg.

Goldberg confirmed Wednesday that he is instituting new policies regarding shows that allow people of all ages, including customers younger than 18, and also the types of shows that ban those who are 17 and younger but admit patrons between 18 and 20.

In other words, there will be far fewer shows that allow the under-21 crowd into the club in the foreseeable future, Goldberg said. The action stems partly from problems with drunken youths at shows earlier this month, but also collectively over the years, he said.

“If I see a trend, I make a decision,” he said. “My biggest concern is the safety of people in the club.”

Goldberg said the large majority of youths who attend concerts at Belly Up are well-behaved. Youngsters who are either getting wasted before the shows or sneaking alcohol into the club are the culprits, he said.

Goldberg posted a message on the club’s Facebook page earlier this month that addressed recent issues.

He said at a sold-out show on Jan. 18 by the electronic outfit Big Gigantic – in which the club allowed a limited number of tickets to patrons under 21 – the problems persisted. Four youths were detained by the club and had to deal with Aspen police because of underage drinking; one patron was caught trying to sell ecstasy to security personnel.

“On the occasions that we elect to do all-ages or 18-plus shows, should the problems persist, the policy stays the same,” Goldberg wrote on the social media website. “The longer the problem exists, the less likely I am to change it.”

He went on to note that upcoming shows featuring Sebastian Ingrosso, Steve Aoki and Datsuk, Midnite, Robotic Pirate Monkey, Eliot Lipp and Bonobo – all of which are a hit with the younger set – will be off limits to those younger than 21.

On Wednesday, Goldberg reiterated that allowing those who are younger than 21 to attend certain shows can be a liability. His club holds a license to sell liquor and he doesn’t want to risk losing it, he said.

“With very few exceptions in the future, all shows at this club will be 21-plus,” he said. “There will be exceptions, those shows that are less oriented toward electronic or hip-hop, or even reggae.”

Goldberg said in the seven years the South Galena Street club has been open, he’s maintained strict policies concerning youth access, yet the problems have persisted.

“We’ve been an all-ages club since we opened the doors,” he said. “Our policy is pretty strict. If you’re under 21 and you get caught drinking and smoking pot, you’re banned from the club until you turn 21.”

One exception to the ban was that if the youths were contrite, the club would allow them to perform 10 hours of supervised community service to give them a chance to return before they turned 21.

Goldberg said that as a parent, he’s not naïve enough to think that kids younger than 21 aren’t going to drink. But they can’t do it in his establishment, he said.

“I didn’t make the law; whether I think it’s correct or incorrect that 21 is the drinking age isn’t the discussion. I’ve got a liquor license, and I’ve got to uphold the law,” he said.

He said at all shows allowing patrons younger than 21 the club has hired extra security to cut down on problems.

Local youths have become savvy over the years to get around drinking-age requirements, Goldberg said, consuming alcohol to excess before entering the club. “I’m not going to tolerate that,” he said.

He said he hopes in the future, if he does allow the under-21 crowd to attend a concert, that other youths will police their peers.

Aspen Police Department records show that official calls to Belly Up have been on the rise in recent years.

In 2009, the department recorded eight reports of underage offenses, which are likely alcohol-related, and eight arrests. The figure grew to 16 reports and 14 arrests in 2011.

Most police calls to Belly Up Aspen are at the request of club personnel, police said.

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