Black Velvet Rope

You may be 21, but that doesn't mean you're old enough to imbibe

On the other hand, National Restaurant Association spokesman Tom Foulkes has no problem with club owners setting age barriers to admission. "They're trying to create a certain atmosphere and bring in a certain clientele," Foulkes says matter-of-factly. "If it's convenient for them to keep ages up, then that's what works best for them. There's no legal reason why they can't do that."

Starsky Wilson is black, tactful and holds down a prestigious job as a major gifts officer for the United Way of Greater St. Louis, in addition to his volunteer role as president of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis' Young Professionals Chapter. By all appearances, he's exactly the sort of patron that II Brothers' Martin -- who cards anyone who looks younger than 30 -- would want in his establishment. Except Wilson is 27.

While he could quite credibly cry foul when faced with this sort of restriction, Wilson, a Dallas native, is diplomatic. "I'd have to respect that," Wilson says of Martin's door policy. "There'd be other places where I can entertain myself. I don't think a club owner is responsible for letting people in at a certain age any more than he or she is obligated to play a certain style of music."

Lounge owner Damon Patterson: "People feel more secure. Older folks know how to hold their drinks better."
Jennifer Silverberg
Lounge owner Damon Patterson: "People feel more secure. Older folks know how to hold their drinks better."

Here Wilson touches on a significant undercurrent of what Nightclub & Bar's Harrelson says is a mild spike in arbitrary age minimums around the nation: musical taste. Rap is the new punk -- a divisive aural wall and between young and old, primarily in the black community.

"I like Nelly, I like 50 Cent, and people come in here and ask, 'Why don't you play that?'" Martin observes. "But then you turn your whole format around. We just don't play it. Those people who say we're being judgmental about youngsters -- activist types -- those are the same people who are in here."

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