Despite student and musicians’ frustrations with 21-plus policies at some clubs in Kamloops, owners and operators are standing by their rules and explaining why things are the way they are.
The Blue Grotto enforces a strict 21-plus age restriction for their patrons on the weekends. This prevents legal-to-drink 19 and 20-year-olds from going into the club and from seeing live music acts over the weekend. The club is booked through an agent during the week and those shows are 19-plus.
Owners want to appeal to an older crowd and are proud to offer a different club atmosphere in Kamloops. It often doesn’t sit well with younger patrons.
“They’re just throwing money away, I think,” Tyler Dempsey said regarding 21-plus age limits. Dempsey is the drummer of Falcity, an alternative rock band that plays in Kamloops.
“I really can’t wrap my head around why there would be an age restriction on any show because the people who spend the most money and people who enjoy music the most are in their teens,” Dempsey said.
Falcity has been playing shows in the Kamloops region for the last nine months. They appeal to a range of 18 to 30-year-olds.
“You’re cutting out more people who would come to our shows,” Dempsey said. “If they were to tell me it was a 21-plus show that I was playing I would be really upset.”
Don Garrish of Business and Licencing with the City of Kamloops said that the 21-plus limit doesn’t have anything to do with the City of Kamloops. He said that it is up to the individual businesses to determine age policies.
“Nothing in the records says they can or can’t do it,” Garrish said.
According to Rob Medves, manager of Cactus Jacks Nightclub, although there is nothing officially written in the liquor regulations regarding age restrictions in clubs (other than the drinking age in B.C.) there are many laws that nightclubs must follow. Among them are the human rights code, the terms and conditions of the liquor act, capacity restrictions, proper ID regulations, providing a safe environment and not promoting over-service of alcohol.
Beyond those laws, a club is free to create and enforce house policies. House rules like dress codes, cover charges, mandatory coat checks and age limits are at the discretion of each individual club. Medves explained how certain house rules will attract and deter different types of clientele.
Teri and Kathy Willey, partial owners of the Blue Grotto, are adamant about their 21-plus policy.
“We wanted something different than just the regular club. We wanted to create a more relaxed, mature atmosphere opposed to the other clubs,” Teri said.
The Willeys have owned the Blue Grotto for eight years along with other partial owner Kevin Willey.
They compared their club to Cactus Jacks and Shark Club, saying they want to give an older crowd a place to dance.
“We get couples in here in their 70s dancing the night away,” Kathy said.
“Would you take your parents to a nightclub? Would you take them to Cactus Jacks?” Kathy and Teri both said.
The Willeys don’t believe there are drawbacks with the 21-plus policy for their business.
“Never has it been a decision we’ve regretted,” Kathy said.
The Blue Grotto’s policies have been called into question before.
The Willeys said in the past there was a case with a man not following a house rule regarding the dress code. According to The Daily News, the man was asked to leave because he was wearing a tank top. He argued that women with similar looking tops were allowed inside. He took them to the Human Rights Tribunal of British Columbia for discrimination. The Blue Grotto won the case.
The Willeys stick to their policies. They have refused family and even had a band threaten to leave because they would not let a band member’s daughter in to see the show.
“We will not make an exception for anyone for any reason,” Teri said.
Jim Elliot is a 20-year-old journalism and political science student at TRU. He has also been a resident of Kamloops for 12 years. Elliot feels “frustrated because while the average 19-20 year old may be a drunken mess most of the time, I’m not, and I feel like I’m being unfairly profiled based entirely on my age.”
For now, it seems The Blue Grotto will stick to their policies and continue enforcing their 21-plus age restriction.
“Just because it’s the minimum drinking age in B.C. [it] doesn’t mean we have to do that. It’s what we want for our club,” Teri said. “Technically it is discrimination, but it’s our club and we can have our own rules.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article did not clearly state the frequency of 19+ shows at the Blue Grotto. It also misstated the age limit on a particular show, and that section of the article has been removed as of Oct. 31, 2014.