Monday, December 2, 2013

Should Bars Set Their Own Drinking Ages?

In response to the latest news about a NYC bar setting a minimum age of 25 for patrons, we at Twenty-One Debunked realize that we haven't been all that clear about whether bars should be allowed to discriminate based on age.  And it's perfectly legal too, believe it or not.  We have mixed feelings about the issue overall, and if the founder of Twenty-One Debunked ever owned a bar, he would not set the age limit any higher than the legal drinking age (whatever it may be at the time).  In principle, it is ageist to do so, and it is far better to crack down on all troublemakers regardless of age and put better safeguards in place for everyone.

However, there are some fairly strong arguments in favor of allowing bars to set a higher age, particularly if the legal drinking age is lowered to 18.  First, it is worth noting in that some countries with a drinking age of 18, such as Sweden, several bars (and especially nightclubs) set an age limit of 20, 23, or even 30 in some cases.  Puerto Rico, with a drinking age of 18, has bars that are 21 to enter as well.  Also, there is anecdotal evidence that when many states lowered the drinking age to 18 in the 1970s, at least some bars lost business (and even went out of business) due to the supposedly rowdy 18-20 year olds flooding the bars and scaring off the older patrons.  The irony of the Brooklyn bar was that the age was raised to 25 because the 21-24 year olds were apparently the ones causing too much trouble, so it seems that raising the legal drinking age to 21 just shifted the problems to a slightly older age group.  Finally, there's the free market argument that private businesses should be allowed to do as they please, within reason of course.  While none of these arguments by themselves are strong enough, when put together they make a rather compelling case in favor of allowing bars to remain free to choose their own minimum ages.  And most importantly, if bars are allowed such freedom, they would be much more likely to get on board with our movement to lower the drinking age since they would not feel "forced" to accomodate "rowdy teenagers" if they don't want to.  So there's a strong argument from practicality as well.

Thus, while Twenty-One Debunked believes that the legal drinking age should be lowered to 18, we feel that individual bars should be allowed to choose a higher minimum age if they wish.  And if they did, it would be more likely to be 21 rather than 25, since 21-24 year olds would likely be a lot mellower if they grew up under a drinking age of 18 than if they grew up under the status quo.

1 comment:

  1. I think that the minimum age for entering the bar featured in the article on the NYRA Facebook page is too high. The owners of that bar should move the bar's location to an area where residential units are located farther away from the bar. If the bar owners did that, then the minimum age to enter that bar would be the same as the drinking age. I think that bars should be allowed to set their own minimum entrance age. If the drinking age is lowered to 18, then there should be a law which would prohibit bars from using the age of 21 as a minimum age, including entering bars. The reason I support this is because we should not let the cultural obsession of using the age of 21 to undo the progress which we will make. That same law should also prohibit bars from using a minimum age higher than 25 to enter bars. In all, a drinking age of 18 would be the right thing.