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How To Survive As An All Ages Music Venue

Creative Commons/Mike Krzeszak

While Portland – and Oregon, more generally – has been an epicenter for the U.S. indie music scene for decades, the difficulty of maintaining live music venues where underage fans can attend shows nonetheless persists. The Chinatown venue and coffee shop Backspace is just the latest in a long line of all-ages Portland venues to be shuttered under financial stress.

The chief culprit for these closures is the difficulty of staying afloat without the alcohol revenue that’s the lifeblood of the industry. This problem is compounded by rising rents — often driven by gentrification – which have lead clubs to lose their leases and close their doors.

Despite these difficulties, a number of performance spaces have managed to continue offering all-ages shows through the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s (OLCC) policy on minor posting. These changed in 2008 to allow venues to designate a specific area for alcohol sales within a controlled and monitored space. Portland venues like the Crystal Ballroom, Slabtown, and the Wonder Ballroom – among others – have taken advantage of this policy to draw larger, more enthusiastic young crowds while still reaping the financial benefits of alcohol sales.

What do you think about the current availability of live music for all ages in Oregon? What might aid in the success of these venues?

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