The Hollywood, Calif., owners of The Big Easy tried to get an exemption to state law to allow the BoDo venue to serve liquor at all-ages shows, as is their practice. But their bill was shot down by lawmakers.
They had a chance: The Senate State Affairs Committee gave them an opportunity to better define their terms, especially those that define just what the Big Easy is all about. But despite the new language, lawmakers were unable to swallow the idea of allowing minors to mingle where alcohol is available for sale.
Sen. Kate Kelly, a Boise Democrat, said she had personal issues with the bill and felt that parents throughout the Treasure Valley are relying on lawmakers to provide basic safety. State and city cops said that despite language tweaks, any bill allowing kids to mingle with over-21 drinkers wouldn't fly.
Republican Sen. Brad Little from Emmett echoed Kelly's concerns, with little empathy for the Knitting Factory, saying the company is savvy enough to know it was buying a risky venture when they acquired The Big Easy last year.
Senate President Robert Geddes, a Soda Springs Republican, was also among the bill's detractors.
"It's a mistake to say the only way a business can establish itself is with alcohol," he said. After patting Gallatin Group lobbyist Lyn Darrington on the back for her hard work, he added that he likes the idea that if youth are permitted in a venue, then the establishment's security plan should say, "no alcohol."
All of which was good news to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
"Allowing these facilities to serve alcohol, where anyone [is] under 21 years of age, is a tragedy in the making," said Loretta Stadler from MADD Idaho.
The bill was the final straw for the Knitting Factory for this session. But the hits keep coming: Up next is a hearing March 21 before the Idaho State Police about The Big Easy's restaurant designation. The venue owners, however, have been adamant that The Big Easy is not a restaurant or a bar, but a concert house. Should Alcohol Beverage Control revoke The Big Easy's restaurant endorsement, the venue would become only 21 and older when alcohol is present.
"[If we lose], then I will find a way to separate the room," said Morgan Margolis, Knitting Factory's vice president of West Coast operations. "I cannot do 21 and over completely. If you want to have a concert venue that's going to have that capacity, then you have to be all ages."