What’s Next? A ban on dancing?

I’d like to propose a toast to the American Civil Liberties Union and the dozen or so 21-year-old and younger performers who filed suit against the Oregon Liquor Control Commission last month.

As reported by Janie Har in the Sept. 23 Metro section of the Oregonian, two underage nude dancers along with two members of an Irish dance group and several young musicians and their parents are taking the OLCC to task for a rule put into effect more than nine months ago banning all underage performers, whether exotic or not, from performing in establishments that serve a 21-and-older- only clientele.

If you didn’t already know about this rule, I sure hope some bells are ringing in your head.

According to Har’s report, members of the regulatory board said that keeping minors away from alcohol, apparently the board’s main reason for existence, is much harder when underage strippers are allowed to work in establishments that serve 21-and-older patrons.

And the board’s spokesman, John Stubenvoll, according to Har’s report, seems to readily admit that the rule was originally thought up to prevent underage exotic performers from working in gentlemen’s clubs. The problem, Stubenvoll said, is that the OLCC was advised that picking and choosing between certain types of performers (i.e. stand-up comics, musicians, erotic dancers) would put the board “on thin ice vis-퀌�-vis the state constitution.”

So at least the board isn’t playing favorites. For that, I commend it.

But wait a minute.

The problem with this rule enacted by the OLCC is that while the board has covered its ass by not playing favorites in the performance realm, it has still put itself in a position of picking and choosing what’s okay and what’s not, because it is still allowing underage servers in restaurants to enter the bar area of their establishments to get drinks for their customers.

By my estimation, this is still putting underage workers in close contact with alcohol. In fact, the OLCC is still allowing alcohol to be put directly into the hands of underage workers, a situation that existed before the rule banning underage performers.

Something’s not right here, people.

As a stripper or musician on stage, the closest an underage performer is going to get to alcohol, provided that the owner(s) of the establishment are doing their job, is smelling it on the breath of the people who are there to be entertained.

Performers are simply too busy performing to be concerned with sneaking a drink.

So what’s wrong with the action taken by the OLCC?

According to David Fidanque of the ACLU, who was quoted in Har’s report, the rule is restricting expression, and we all know what cardinal rule that breaks, right?

So it would seem that the OLCC, while ostensibly trying to shield underage performers from alcohol use, was more likely trying to impose moral attitudes, and in the process has put its foot so far in its mouth that the toes are playing tonsil hockey.

So shame on you, OLCC. If the people of the state have a problem with underage strippers, let the people do something about it. We don’t need our government playing the role of concerned mother anymore than it does now.

Besides, it’s hard enough to succeed in any performance industry without a state agency making it even harder by closing doors that have traditionally been open and are open in other states.

For not playing favorites, I commend the OLCC. For trying to restrict performers from building careers and paying their bills, I condemn it.