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Council Backs Age Limits, Earlier Closing for Teen Clubs

July 24, 1985|RICHARD SIMON | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council tentatively approved an ordinance Tuesday setting earlier closing times for dance clubs for teen-agers and requiring 13- and-14-year-old patrons to obtain parental consent to visit them.

The vote was 13 to 1, with Councilman Joel Wachs dissenting. Final approval is expected next week. Then the measure will go to Mayor Tom Bradley, who has yet to take a position on the issue.

There are three teen-age dance clubs in the city. The city closed a fourth one, the now fire-gutted Odyssey on the Westside, in February. Although all three clubs are in the San Fernando Valley, they draw teen-agers from all over the county. A fourth club is seeking city approval to open in the Harbor area, but it faces strong neighborhood opposition.

West Valley Councilwoman Joy Picus proposed the ordinance to deal with what she said were "hair-raising" and "unsavory" activities--including drug abuse, vandalism and sexual activity--at Phases, a Canoga Park club that draws up to 400 teen-agers a night.

10 p.m. Weeknight Closing

The measure would require clubs to close at 10 p.m. on nights before school days and at 1 a.m. on weekends and before holidays. Currently, the clubs may stay open until 2 a.m. every night.

The ordinance also would prohibit 13- and 14-year-olds from entering clubs unless a parent signs a consent form in the presence of club management. Once the form is on file, the teen-agers could return to the clubs without their parents.

People under 13 would be prohibited from entering the clubs, as would people over 20, except for parents of teen-agers attending the clubs. Patrons would be required to show proof of age--which could include a school identification card--to be admitted.

Currently, city law sets no age limits but requires patrons under 16 to be accompanied by parents. Police officials say, however, that the provision has been difficult to enforce.

The ordinance also would require the clubs to refuse admission to anyone under the influence of alcohol or drugs and to notify police and parents of any patrons who appear to be intoxicated.

Clubs also would be prohibited from admitting teen-agers whose parents have filed written notice asking that their children not be admitted.

Violation of the ordinance would be a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine and six months in jail. Repeated violations could lead to revocation of a club's Police Commission operating permit, Police Lt. John Ferguson said.

"We're no longer talking about sock hops in the school gym," Picus said. "We need legislation which addresses the big business of nightclubs run expressly for teen-agers."

Wachs called the proposed ordinance "overkill," saying it would restrict the fun of "the overwhelming majority of good kids" because of problems created by a few bad ones.

He also argued that problems caused by teen-agers are best left for parents, not government, to solve.

"What I find wrong is that we are sloughing off the responsibility that we have as adults in this world and say(ing) let government do it because parents don't give the time and energy that they should to their kids," Wachs said.

'Wouldn't Stand for It'

But Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, in whose district the Odyssey was located, recalled the neighborhood complaints that led the city to close that club. "If you lived next to a place which had a thumping bass drum until 4 or 5 in the morning . . . if you lived on the same block where people are drinking, using drugs, fornicating, you wouldn't stand for it," he said.

Yaroslavsky said the council has a responsibility to protect teen-agers. "If the parents won't do it, we cannot, as a city, countenance having 12-and 13-year-olds out on the street at 4 and 5 o'clock in the morning, because they are vulnerable to attack."

Councilman John Ferraro also chided Wachs, a bachelor, for lecturing the council on parental responsibility.

Police Chief Daryl F. Gates appeared before the council to urge passage of the ordinance, saying it would remedy "an area that has constantly been a problem: the adult world not giving proper supervision to our youngsters."

At a public hearing before Tuesday's council action, attended by about two dozen teen-agers wearing T-shirts emblazoned, "Let us be footloose in Los Angeles," Phases club operator Kevin Parr complained that the proposed restrictions would only drive teens onto the streets, "where they would get into trouble."

Parr also complained that the council is unfairly singling out teen discos for regulation. "Why should a teen dance club have to close any earlier than movie theaters?" he asked, noting that movie houses stay open well after 10 p.m. on weeknights.

A similar bill to regulate teen-age dance clubs throughout the state has been introduced in the Legislature, where it has been stalled in committee by strong opposition.

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