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Students, bar owners question minor bill

STEPHANIE FRIEDMAN Daily Texan Staff, Date 02/01/1997

[ Photo Missing - Hole in the Wall bartender Brooks Brannon fills a pitcher of Shiner Bock for a customer. Brannon has been working at Hole in the Wall for over five years. Hole in the Wall will be affected by the bill since it allows 18-20 year-olds into its establishment. ]

While a state legislator continued to push for passage of a bill prohibiting minors from entering bars, students and bar owners expressed doubts Tuesday that the law would be effective.

Rep. Leo Alvarado, D-San Antonio, requested a committee hearing Tuesday for House Bill 599, which would prohibit minors from entering bars regardless of whether they are allowed to purchase alcohol.

Doug Cugini, owner and manager of Hole in the Wall Arcade and Restaurant on the Drag, said sufficient laws already exist to prevent underage drinking.

"If they think that it's going to prevent minors from drinking, I don't think many minors drink in bars," Cugini said. "We're pretty well regulated as it is. Other than Sixth Street, not that many clubs here in Austin let minors in anyway."

Adrian Rodriguez, a government sophomore, said it would be harder for minors to take advantage of Austin's renowned live music scene if the bill becomes law.

"I don't think this bill is economically feasible for businesses because a lot of their revenue comes from students under the age of 21," Rodriguez said. "It will also take away from the prestige of Austin as 'The Live Music Capital of the World.' It will make it harder for bands to get a large audience."

"I won't have the opportunity to see a lot of live bands I would like to see if this bill gets passed," he added.

More than 18,000 UT undergraduates -- 51.6 percent -- are in the 18-to-20-year-old age group that would be affected by the legislation.

Glenn Demboski, a liberal arts sophomore, said bars "will find loopholes if [the law] offers them. If the clubs don't find loopholes, then the kids will find loopholes. Kids are pretty smart."

"There will be more fake IDs" if the bill passes, Carolyn Gebhard, an anthropology freshman, said.

Minors would be exempt from the law when attending a bar with a parent, guardian, or over-21 spouse. Minors who work in bars would also be exempt. The law would not apply to restaurants that serve alcohol but generate at least 65 percent of their revenue from food.

The next step in the legislative process is a hearing before the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee, which will issue a recommendation before the entire House votes on the bill.

Nikita Tolbert, an aide to committee chair Ron Wilson, D-Houston, said she had "no idea" when the bill would come before a hearing or whether the bill would ever become law.

"It's very hard to gauge whether a bill will pass or not," Tolbert said. "This, along with 30 other bills, has been referred to Ron's committee, and he doesn't have time to read every one of them."

Wilson "doesn't even know this bill exists right now," Tolbert said.

Cugini said the law's effect on Hole in the Wall "would depend on how they enforce it."

"I don't think it will affect us as long as minors can come class="maintxt"in when our restaurant is open," Cugini said.

"After the restaurant closes, when we serve alcohol, we check IDs and don't let people under 21 in. It's just too much trouble, and they don't generate that much revenue anyway."

Rep. Pat Haggerty, R-El Paso, a member of the Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee, said the bill may force some bars to move their concerts elsewhere.

"I haven't read the bill," Haggerty said. "But I don't think it's endangering [bars'] business -- it's just endangering their business practices. They would have to move the venues of their concerts."


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