AS THE EXPERIENCE Music Project opens its doors, it seems like the perfect time for City Hall to stop stomping on the all-ages music scene. After all, who else but the Clearasil set would shell out $40 for Matchbox 20 tickets?
But while the Seattle City Council might finally be willing to repeal the notorious Teen Dance Ordinance, don't look to the Seattle Police Department for agreement.
After working for 14 months, the City Council's Music and Youth Task Force has developed several proposals on how City Hall can help the all-ages scene. Among its suggestions: Form a city-owned all-ages venue for concerts, create a permanent Youth and Music Commission to monitor the health of the all-ages scene, repeal the Teen Dance Ordinance, and pass a new law regulating the scene—the All Ages Dance Ordinance.
Passed in 1985, many argue the Teen Dance Ordinance has hurt the all-ages scene by requiring too much expensive insurance and security for concerts and clubs. The proposed All Ages Dance Ordinance would streamline the process for putting on an all-ages show. Although other municipal laws (such as fire codes) would still apply, the ordinance would only require club owners to pass a criminal background check in order to obtain a yearly permit to operate an all-ages venue. A permit could be suspended or revoked for various crimes such as drug dealing, but owners would have a chance to appeal the suspension to the newly created Youth and Music Commission.
While many of the more militant members of the Task Force wanted to repeal the TDO and not replace it with anything, the creation of a new ordinance was an attempt to compromise with the cops. The plan didn't work.
The Seattle police, "do not support the repeal of the TDO," said Officer Jim Pugel, a member of the Task Force. Pugel said the TDO prevents unsafe concerts from happening. Pugel believes rising rents are the primary cause for the decline of all-ages shows, and he is worried about the lack of an insurance requirement in the new All Ages Dance Ordinance.
"It's not a question of safety," said Greg Bennick, a former musician who was on the Task Force. "All-ages shows are safe and have been safe. What we tried to establish is an ordinance that would give people peace of mind." Bennick said he felt "betrayed" by the lack of support from the police and believes the Task Force worked hard to address their concerns. "The police are grandstanding a bit," he said. "Once you declare all-ages music to be dangerous you can't back off from that position."
Even without police support, there is a good chance the recommendations will be passed by the City Council. "Right now I think we're in pretty good shape," said council member Richard Conlin, who formed the Task Force. Conlin said he'd spoken to six other council members who plan to vote for the Task Force's recommendations. In his usual optimistic manner, he predicted, "When push comes to shove, [the police] will say, 'We don't like it, but we can live with it.'"