Like all red-blooded Americans, we San Diegans love our beer and our rock 'n' roll. And we often like 'em at the same time. Unfortunately, some of us aren't quite old enough to booze legally. But is this any reason to deprive us of our rock 'n' roll? The House of Blues says, "Hell, no!"
On May 11, the new $11 million San Diego House of Blues (HOB) opens its 1,100-capacity club. The new venue has a lot to offer concertgoers: the type of big-name artists usually associated with 4th & B, the restaurant/beach bar atmosphere of 'Canes and the power that comes from being part of the nation's second largest concert company. But HOB's secret weapon may be its ability to cater to the all-ages' crowd. Unlike 4th & B, 'Canes and every other similarly-sized, alcohol-serving venue, HOB will sprinkle all-ages concerts among their 21-and-over shows, giving the club something the competition doesn't offer.
'Canes used to be set up so that under-21 and over-21 concertgoers could be at the same show, but to drink alcohol one had to go to the back bar, from which you couldn't see the stage. Paying $20 to watch Damien Rice on closed-circuit TV with a beer in your hand quickly lost its allure. At HOB, however, the over-21-only area will have a perched view of the stage.
Before you jump to any conclusions about how HOB will bury brewless, all-ages haven Soma or no-kids-allowed 4th & B, take a look at how many all-ages shows HOB is offering during its inaugural month-one of 15 (Audioslave). And while June isn't fully scheduled, currently only the second show of Bad Religion's two-night stand is open to underage fans.
Like many of its peers in the Gaslamp, HOB has a standard restaurant alcohol license so there is no age restriction on its clientele. However, during shows there's always the risk of older patrons sneaking younger patrons Budweisers or Sea Breezes, so HOB management devised an elaborate system to assure young'uns don't get their hands on liquid entertainment.
"Those people who are 21 or older and decide to drink will be relegated to a specific part of the venue where they will have to drink their beverage," says HOB promotions manager Scott McDonald. "It will be a couple-step process where the person who lets you into the area will have to check your ID and you'll have to have a wristband and you'll have to drink in that specific area."
Why all this work for a handful of shows? The main reason may be the love Audioslave and Bad Religion have for their young fans. Many artists don't play age-restricted venues. If HOB didn't provide an all-ages venue, some bands would have to play Soma, Cox Arena or skip a stop in San Diego.
"It's often the requirements of the talent," says Liz Newman, who does publicity for HOB through the firm Bailey Gardiner. "Those bigger types of shows need to be open to all audiences because they have fans of all ages."
Obviously it's too soon to see how HOB's all-ages shows will impact competitors' business. But for now, there will be little effect on concertgoers other than a handful of ecstatic 20-year-old Audioslave fans.