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Committee OKs all-ages shows

Changes recommended Wednesday to Fargo's liquor laws would allow minors to attend concerts in bars if a separate space is set aside for alcohol-free shows.

Changes recommended Wednesday to Fargo's liquor laws would allow minors to attend concerts in bars if a separate space is set aside for alcohol-free shows.

Under current city law, businesses with liquor licenses can't allow those under age 21 on the premises.

After looking the other way for years, Fargo police started enforcing the law last month, telling promoters to move an all-ages rap concert from The Aquarium because it's above Dempsey's Public House Irish Pub on 226 Broadway.

The changes recommended by the city's Liquor Control Committee would allow bars to hold all-ages shows, as long as they're in a separate alcohol-free area and minors don't have to walk through a bar to get to them. The liquor license holder also must provide adequate security, and no smoking is allowed in the alcohol-free area.

For private, invite-only events such as wedding receptions, the revised ordinance allows minors to mingle with adults, leaving it up to the liquor license holder to ensure minors don't consume alcohol.


Chris Hennen, a promoter who books shows at The Aquarium, said he's happy with the revised ordinance.

"It's definitely something we can live with," he said.

Mayor Bruce Furness cautioned that changes to city law don't apply to state liquor law, which bars minors from establishments that serve alcohol.

City Attorney Garylle Stewart said proponents of all-ages shows may want to try to modify state law during the next legislative session.

Liz Brocker, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office in Bismarck, said officials there haven't seen what's proposed in Fargo. She referred questions to Stewart, "as it's still a city issue."

Hennen, who has bands interested in all-ages shows starting again in August, said he will wait to see if state authorities react to the local ordinance change.

"Grand Forks has had an ordinance like this since the 1990s, and they haven't said a word about it," he said.

The City Commission will receive and file the revised ordinance Monday. It could be approved as early as June 19.


In the meantime, Police Chief Keith Ternes said the department will continue to take a "reasonable approach" to all-ages shows. If a venue serves alcohol during an all-ages show, officers will document it and forward it to the city prosecutor's office for consideration, he said.

"What I'm hoping for - and, generally speaking, they've done it already - is for businesses to be as cooperative as they can until we're able to finalize the ordinance," he said.

Fraternal clubs and hotels that host wedding receptions will be allowed to do so, but like bars hosting public all-ages shows, they need to ensure minors aren't drinking, Ternes said.

"That's the primary concern," he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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