Nineteen-year-olds flocking to Toad’s Place may become a thing of the past — again.
A bill is circulating through City Hall that would require all patrons of city clubs that hold liquor licenses to be at least 21 years old. Ward 3 Alderwoman Jacqueline James-Evans, who proposed the legislation on Monday, said she submitted the bill out of concern that the parties at many downtown nightclubs have been getting out of control and dangerous.
“Any establishment that has a liquor license should not be facilitating parties for anyone under the age of 21,” James-Evans said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s become a dangerous atmosphere at the clubs downtown.”
Toad’s manager Brian Phelps said Tuesday evening that he had not heard of the proposal. But since Toad’s gets a significant amount of its revenue from its under-21 patrons, he said Toad’s would “be out of business” if all of its patrons, even those attending its concerts, were required to be at least 21.
The popular York Street nightclub changed its entry policies in January 2009 to allow 19- and 2o-year-olds into its dance parties. In order to prepare the club for the change, the dance floor was redesigned and a new bar area restricted to patrons 21 and over was added. The change was made in response to high demand by Yale students who wanted to attend the club without drinking, he said.
James-Evans said she does not want to prevent college students from partying, she just wants to ensure New Haven clubs keep their parties under control.
“I think the city is obligated to look at ways to prevent [violence at clubs] from happening,” she said. “I would rather be safe than sorry.”
James-Evans said she proposed the law because she was troubled after witnessing “utter chaos” outside numerous downtown nightclubs on Christmas Eve. She saw about 70 people in the street, some of whom were fighting and many who were high school students, she said.
“If someone started shooting or stabbing [on Christmas Eve], there would be nothing the police could do,” she said.
Almost a month earlier, on Nov. 28, Bambaata Carr, a 21-year-old social services worker from Hamden, was killed in a fight on the dance floor of Club Sinergy, a now-defunct nightclub on Crown Street. Carr sustained more than 10 stab wounds, and two others were also injured, according to a police report.
Ward 1 Alderman Mike Jones ’11, who represents most Yale undergraduates, said he does not think the bill is intended to target Yale students. He said his understanding is that the legislation is supposed to increase supervision for teenagers.
Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark said the Board of Aldermen’s Youth Services Committee should consider James-Evans’s proposal, adding that the proposal forces the city to deal with the serious issue of violence outside nightclubs. But she said the city must also hear all sides of the issue, including those of the clubs that would be affected.
“We’ve got to be able to listen to what the clubs have to say,” she said. “You have to listen to all the sides of the story, but this is a great beginning.”
Nine of the 12 students interviewed Tuesday said they would be upset if New Haven banned underage students from attending currently 19-and-over clubs such as Toad’s Place. The three other students said they would not care.
“More underage people will use fake IDs and will be more likely to drink at the clubs,” Amy Liao ’11 said.
Still, it will be a long time before James-Evans’s proposal becomes law, Clark said, because the proposal must go through at least one Board of Aldermen committee meeting and one meeting of the full board before becoming a law.
The Board of Aldermen’s public safety committee is considering the proposal and will schedule a public hearing on the issue at some point in the future, board president Carl Goldfield said.
Jordan Schneider and Esther Zuckerman contributed reporting.