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Local promoter Grant Hall takes a dim view of the proposed underage ordinance
Local promoter Grant Hall takes a dim view of the proposed underage ordinance
Joshua Prezant


I see dumb people: A lot of dumb people. They packed the September 19 Fort Lauderdale City Commission meeting and spilled out onto the streets. First there was the Boy Scout Bigotry Brigade, featuring 14-year-olds holding signs that read, "Stop the radical gay and lesbian agenda!!" Bandwidth was hanging around hoping a sudden cloudburst would strike down a few of these conservative cretins with a well-placed lightning strike -- and to watch the discussion of the other idiot magnet on the agenda, that being the law to ban under-21 patrons from clubs.

Too bad this silly, overreaching piece of legislative dreck had such risible opposition, namely a gaggle of straightedge kids dressed as if they were going to a Fugazi show. Maybe they figured appearing in native garb would somehow win additional support. Thanks for staying in character, kids, but if a well-placed heart and a love for "the scene, maaaaan," is all you can offer, then you're better off continuing to send those e-mails to the mayor every week. After all, he reads each and every one, and he cares. He really does.

Whatever the benefits of the straightedge lifestyle, increased brain mass doesn't seem to be one of them. Judging from their performance in the council chambers, these whiny, self-righteous teenage vegans have compositional skills that begin and end with drawing an X on their hands with a Magic Marker. Had the moppets been addressing the Broward County school board, they might have gotten their English teachers and debate-team coaches summarily sacked.

One teen's attempt to present a coherent argument to the committee -- abetted by some podium fist-pounding -- went like this: "You guys, like, can't tell us we're the problem, 'cause we're not. We're the future of, you know. Not to be mean, but we're smarter than you. I think our generation is smarter because we have all the technology. You just can't discriminate us [sic]. We're going to go on the street and start drinking. That's what we're going to resort to."

Another girl turned on the waterworks, saying that if her music were ripped from her, there'd be hell to pay. "But I won't resort to violence if you don't pass this ordinance," she sobbed. Yeah, and you won't not fail English if you keep using those pesky double negatives, young lady.

So much for that all-important, deeply held straightedge tradition of pacifism, huh? Next thing you know, she'll be eating dairy products in moderation.

Of course the members of the commission don't appear to be Mensa candidates, either. And they were just plain rude: Eating, laughing, whispering, talking out of turn. Of course they certainly have nothing to fear from a bunch of inarticulate kids who are unlikely ever to vote in a local election, but who learned them manners, anyway?

Likewise the opposition similarly failed to demonstrate a razor intellect. The majority of folks who spoke in favor of the law were the beachfront property owners who pronounced: "These kids will emphatically thank you in the future." It takes an active imagination to envision that scenario: "Hey, remember when we couldn't go to shows for three years? That really made me a better person. Thanks, Fort Lauderdale!"

There was one articulate voice on the anti-ordinance side: Ray Doumar, the lawyer for problem-child beach club Atlantis. He probably couldn't tell Ian MacKaye from Jim McKay, but he did pose a major threat to the commissioners -- pointing fingers, quoting the Constitution, and threatening the council members with legal fisticuffs.

Fortunately there are some other grownups who are fighting for the under-21 crowd's right to spend $4.50 for a soda. Backed into a corner, club owners and promoters are starting to bare teeth and claws, ready to throw down in an effort to hold on to what little viable business they do have.

"I would say 50 percent of the kids said the wrong thing," admits Grant Hall, an independent local promoter who's been scouring the suburbs for places to hold his all-ages events. "They weren't very bright. But they were young, and they don't know what works."

Hall is trying hard to be optimistic against sweeping overlegislation that could curtail fun throughout the city, as well as smack him right in the wallet.

"I'm going to have to pull back and re-evaluate," he says. "And it's going to force me to look for locations where parents don't want their kids to go! I'm not going to be able to find a prime place -- I'm going to have to find places that are off the beaten path in dark neighborhoods in places where it's scary, because the real estate is so expensive. They're going to be driving their kids to dark hovels."

Hall sees a clear NIMBY agenda: City commissioners want to shift the focus of all things icky and noisy away from Fort Lauderdale and toward outlying areas. That's simply not acceptable, says Hall, who breaks it down this-a-way:

"Fort Lauderdale is to South Florida like Manhattan is to New York City. Things are going to be in Fort Lauderdale because that's where things are happening. That's the central point. It ain't Hollywood! It ain't Sunrise! It's in Fort Lauderdale, because that's where people go! That's where the cultural things are!"

Laughing the laugh of the condemned, Hall gets all Gertrude Stein on us: "People can't even find Sunrise! Where is it?"

No one seems to know. But the ordinance isn't going to be passed without a battle; if not a battle of wits, then a battle of the bands. The big bash the Culture Room plans for Friday, September 29, is shaping up to be a massive musical protest featuring the efforts of 100 different local acts, each performing one song, starting at 7 p.m. and continuing all night long.

Owner Greg Aliferis' voice quavers with rage and a hint of panic. "I'll be damned if I'm going to sit here and be put out of business because [the city] refuses to hold individual businesses responsible for their own actions. It's time for us to stand up and fight for this ordinance, because that's the only way I can keep my doors open."

The event, with scheduled appearances by Nonpoint, Crease, Darwin's Waiting Room, Livid Kittens, Flesh, Wet, the Still, Unsilent Reign, and more, is part of a plan to get 1000 bodies to the next vote on the proposal October 3.

"If a whole bunch of people don't show up, this is going to really kill live music in Fort Lauderdale," promises Hall. "If people don't show up, for all practical purposes there's no hope. It would deal a lethal blow to any all-ages shows in South Florida. It will kill anything cool."

On that note, stop, motivate, and listen to this: Vanilla Ice may lend a helping hand to the Culture Room as well. No kidding.


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