Minor cause for an update... There's a simple reason why the furor over efforts by state Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) to prevent underage music fans from gaining access to nightclubs that serve alcohol fizzled so quickly: People finally got the right information. In January, the Austin-American Statesman reported that Zaffirini was pushing a bill through the legislature that would prohibit those under 21 from setting foot in most establishments that sell booze. Under-standably, more than a few club owners were up in arms; losing underage patrons could be a serious hit in their pocketbooks.
Only problem was, Zaffirini's "bill" wasn't really a bill at all; it was merely draft legislation. And the senator had reservations about its wording, which was vague at best. So her efforts are unlikely to result in anything anytime soon. Chances are that by the time the current legislative session ends, Zaffirini's proposal will still be in its tune-up phase.
That does not mean, however, that club owners can breathe easy. There's another set of restrictions looming in the legislature that has a much sharper bite than Zaffirini's proposal. And it is an actual bill, courtesy of state Representative Leo Alvarado Jr. (D-San Antonio). Alvarado's HB 599 would amend the state's Alcoholic Beverage Code to ban minors from the premises of any club that holds a mixed beverage permit or sells beer and wine. Alvarado's bill, which is scheduled to go before the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee at an undetermined date, drapes a tighter noose around nightclubs in regard to underage patrons than Zaffirini's proposal ever hoped to. While both proposals are similar in that they provide exemptions for minors working on the premises, and for those accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, HB 599 is unquestionably tougher on other counts. Zaffirini's draft would exempt from the restrictions businesses that derive 25 percent or more of their gross revenue from the sale of food and goods other than alcohol; HB 599 ups that percentage to 65. Also exempt in the Zaffirini draft would be businesses that derive 25 percent or more of their gross revenue from "tickets to live performances," a stipulation that had owners of minor-friendly live music venues confident that they could live with the regulations. Alvarado's bill doubles that revenue figure to 50 percent. But what should be most disturbing to club owners is that HB 599's exemptions specify only outdoor venues. As Alvarado (who failed to return my phone calls) has made clear to reporters in the past, his intention is to keep minors out of any indoor venues where alcoholic beverages are served.
What are the chances of HB 599 making it through the legislature? Hard to say, but here's some food for thought: In the last legislative session, a similar Alvarado bill left the Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee unscathed and passed a vote in the House, making it all the way to the Senate's State Affairs Committee before sputtering out. And with like-minded politicians such as Zaffirini lurking around the Senate, who knows what could happen if HB 559 makes it to the upper house session? Hoist a few cold ones and ponder that awhile. Then reach for the phone, call your favorite legislator and do what your conscience tells you.
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Trimming the fat... No wonder Justice Records honcho Randall Jamail seemed a bit out of sorts at this year's South by Southwest Music Conference. A major shakeup was about to come down at his label. Last week, Jamail stepped down as president of Justice, and seven employees in Justice's sales, promotions and accounting departments were laid off. It happened March 17, the Monday after SXSW, in what the label's calling a "downsizing." Gary Moore, formerly Justice vice president in charge of marketing, will take over as president, a move Jamail hopes will free him up to concentrate more on his family and on producing. Jamail, who will continue as head of A&R, gives his assurance that nothing truly dire is in store at the label.
Blues for Green... Memories don't get any hipper than this. Houston's blues community came together March 19 at Billy Blues for a celebration of the life and music of guitarist Clarence Green, who died March 15 from a brain hemorrhage. Brian Black, Joe "Guitar" Hughes, Big Roger Collins, Jimmy "T-99" Nelson, Guitar Slim, Leonard "Low Down" Brown and members of Green's backup band were among the featured acts. Also in attendance were Green's wife and other family members. The club was filled to capacity, and the jamming continued well into the early morning hours, with players taking the stage whenever the groove struck them. Clarence is probably kicking himself for missing this gig.
Release activity... Pinche Flojo Records, the label founded by Los Skarnales members past and present, has released the Texas compilation CD Scene? What Scene? Impressive if only for its wild variety, the disc combines punk cuts of the standard hard-and-fast variety (River Fenix, Latch Key Kids) with more exotic strains from the likes of Spies Like Us, D.R.U.M. and Southern Backtones.
-- Hobart Rowland