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Wichita City Council to consider ordinance that allows those under 21 to enter event venues

Published: Jul. 5, 2021 at 4:09 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - More than a year in waiting, Wichita city leaders are taking up an ordinance allowing those under 21 to enter large event venues for entertainment.

This was an idea Wave brought to city leaders in early 2020 and then the coronavirus pandemic pushed it to the sideline.

The proposal before city council Tuesday would create a new category of drinking establishments called large capacity venues. It helps some venues that rely more on ticket sales, rather than food and alcohol purchases.

“The drinking establishment/restaurant license is just to ensure that patrons are coming for something other than alcoholic beverages, and we have the same situation here, our patrons are not coming to get drunk our patrons are coming to see music,” Operating Owner of Wave Jessie Hartke said.

Currently, venues need one of two licenses. One of them is to have 30% of their revenue include food sales before opening to minors.

“We can either be a drinking establishment or a drinking establishment slash restaurant. While those are categories for the majority of businesses in town, we fall into neither. The drinking establishment slash restaurant license is just to ensure that patrons are coming for something other than alcoholic beverages. We do have the same situation here,” Hartke said. “Our patrons are coming to see music and that’s very easily reflective within how we sell items. Our ticket sales are 100 to 110 percent of what our alcohol sales are.”

The changes would remove the restriction but still allow some like, capacity needs to be at least 850 people and for those 18 and up to 21, they can be in the venue until midnight.

Minors under 18, they are allowed in until midnight Friday and Saturday nights, but 11 p.m. all other nights. After midnight, they can only be opened for people 21 and up.

This would also come with measures to ID those coming into the venues and training for staff.

At Wave, they said that is a step already in place.

“We have been working with the police department and with the city, and so we are allowing minors into shows, but we always have very strict regimens for that allowance. At the door, even before the show starts, I go over with my staff what is the day that people have to be born on to be able to drink,” Hartke said. “We also discuss what does a fake ID look like, where do different states put their date of birth on their licenses. We cover all of that. Once the show starts, we get people coming through the doors, we ask everyone to show their ID if they want to drink. If a person is a minor and not of age, we have sharpies, we slash massive Xs on the back of both very largely so there’s no way these children are going to get alcohol.”

One of the main reasons they’re pushing for this is because venues like theirs serve as huge economic drivers, along with providing kids more opportunities to expose kids to the arts.

“This ordinance is just the first step in really creating a place for the live music industry within our community. We are an intricate part of our local economy. We’ve estimated that between Wave and Cotillion, in 2019, we’ve created a $24 million impact in our community,” said Hartke.

Another part of this ordinance says that venues need to provide advanced notice to Wichita Police when they have events that allow people under 21 years old in or will include more than 500 people.

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