For far too long, Shreveport has had very little for young people to do, especially at night. Bars, venues, and clubs that serve alcohol as their primary source of income are prohibited by the city from admitting 18-20 year olds, even though the state of Louisiana allows it. Allowing 18+ would be a small step in providing access to culture, nightlife, and the community they may one day be a part of. If New Orleans can do it, if Baton Rouge, Dallas, and Austin can do it, we can too.
Recently, Shreveport adopted updates to the state law allowing ALL AGES into breweries. This is a step in the right direction. Now, we must turn our sights on the city adopting another state law – 18+ in bars and clubs. This is a law that has been on the books with the State of Louisiana for decades. Why has Shreveport abandoned it? We think it’s time to bring all adults back into the fold of bars and clubs.
If Shreveport adopted the state law, bar and club owners will not be required to allow 18+, but instead, will have the choice. Not every bar will choose to lower its age restriction below 21. 18-20-year-olds would still NOT be able to drink. However, making this option available means we can do two things at once: 1) Show 18-20 year olds that we respect them and want them in Shreveport in one of the same ways every other major city in our region wants and respects them 2) Lift restrictions on businesses allowing nightlife in our city to take hold once again.
18+ doesn’t solve all of the problems of young people leaving or feeling included and still excludes a number of the young people, but it’s one important step in addressing the exodus of young people from our city and provide new entertainment options for a group starved for opportunity to engage in our city’s culture and our economy.
18up Shreveport proposes that the Shreveport City Council rewrite Ordinance. No. 118 of 2000, to allow 18+ into bars and clubs.
Calculating benefits of policy can be tricky business. Lots of things factor into the success of a plan.
You can’t legislate your way to success, but legislation can clear away obstacles to success.
Any time someone pays cover to see a band play or buys food or drink (even non-alcoholic ones), they are putting locals to work. Most nightlife spots in our city are locally-owned, meaning local business owners benefit. Both the business and the patrons pay taxes. This tax money helps our city pay for roads, for police and fire, for parks, and for trash collection. The more people we allow to spend money, the better chance our local economy has for suceess.
When we make choices to keep young people interested in Shreveport, they may choose to stay here instead of leaving, or be more willing to return at some point in the future. Our city has been declining in population and it has become a problem for our ability to pay debts, provide proper education, and to push our community into the 21st century. Long story short, more citizens means more opportunity for new business, new taxpayers, and a better city.
Shreveport has been decreasing in population since the Great Recession. We have also been bleeding young people because there’s nothing for them to do (work or play). We do not respect their employment needs or provide for their cultural interests. While allowing 18+ doesn’t solve all of the problems, it’s one important step in addressing the exodus of young people from our city.
We can no longer bear the cost of losing current and prospective residents as we block their participation in our culture and nightlife economy – much of which happens at establishments whose primary income source is alcohol sales. We must work to retain young citizens and to attract them from other markets.
These citizens are, in the eyes of the law, legal adults. They are allowed to do things like vote, own property, sign contracts, buy cigarettes, buy a gun, and fight for our country, but for some reason are not allowed to participate in the night life culture that Shreveport is currently growing and becoming known for.
Those 18 and older can work in a bar and SERVE alcohol in Shreveport, but as soon as their shift is over, the city does not allow them to stay in the establishment.
College-aged citizens are also shaping their identity and choosing a place to live. Give them one more reason to stay or to move here by treating them like the adults they are as other cities do.
Louisiana allows for establishments which primarily serve alcohol to be frequented by all legal adults – including 18-20 year olds. There are no restrictions by the State of Louisiana preventing 18+ in bars though they cannot drink.
Before casinos came to town, Shreveport had allowed 18+ in bars. But at the turn of the new millennium, that changed for reasons none of our sitting officials can recall. Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Ruston, and other cities allow 18+ bars to exist. They are able to manage downsides and gain the upside of such a choice. It won’t be easy, especially at the beginning, but we must make the effort.
In cities that allow 18+, bars owners can set their own age requirements and provide security and age verification that keeps their business from breaking the law. We can then use existing services like Shreveport Police Vice to continue to work the way they do today to curb underage drinking in restaurants, venues – like the Convention Center, the Municipal Auditorium – and the numerous festivals occurring year-round who allow all ages and consumption of alcohol in the same space.
Remember, if a business breaks the law by allowing someone under age to drink in their establishment, they can be fined and risk losing their license to operate.
Cities around the world manage establishments that allow drinking while allowing those who cannot drink to patronize the business’s other offerings such as food, music, and games. Shreveport already does this with festivals like the Red River Revel, Prize Fest, Holiday In Dixie, and many more. Venues like The Strand Theatre, The Municipal Auditorium, and Shreveport Convention Center all are allowed to sell alcohol in the presence of underage patrons. The same enforcement methods that work for at these places can be employed at bars and clubs as well. We should allow bars and clubs who opt to allow 18+ to choose the enforcement method they find most effective. If they fail, their license to operate is at risk.
Marking is a popular, but sometimes flawed, system of preventing bartenders from serving those who are under age. When a patron enters the bar, their ID is checked. If they are under 21, they receive an ink mark in the form of an X marked on the hand indicating if someone CANNOT drink.
Another method of enforcement is to check IDs for 18+ at the door and then have the bartender check again for someone attempting to order a drink. This is a double hit for those who can drink and can be an inconvenience. It also means taking the time to check IDs at the bar making bartending slower. Not ideal, but it does provide some additional protection except against quality fake IDs.
One of the most sensible options with as little intrusion as possible is giving wristbands or marks to those who CAN drink instead of those who cannot. Washing off an X or taking off a wristband is easy for those who cannot drink, but why would someone over 21 give away a wristband and be unable to drink themselves?