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12/4/2012 7:30:00 AM
City considering 'all ages' ordinance
Ordinance would open up some events to under 21 crowd

Kyle Rogers

The Elbo Room's new entertainment venue "The Ballroom" has been hosting musical acts since the spring, but because of the business' liquor license, such events have been open only to those over 21.

That may soon change upon a final approval from the City Council. The city's Protection of Persons and Property (PPP) Committee recently OKed an ordinance that would allow Elbo Room owner John Mason to hold all-ages events at "The Ballroom" - under the condition that the venue eliminate access to alcohol during those events.

It would be up to Mason to notify Police Chief Mike Steffes in advance and get the OK each time he decides to hold an all-ages event.

Mason explained to the PPP Committee last week that since "The Ballroom" made its debut, he has been getting requests about holding events that would be family-friendly or not just limited to the 21 and over crowd.

He is unable to do so at the moment because his liquor license applies to the entire business, even though "The Ballroom" is in a neighboring space that is separate from the rest of the Elbo Room. Because of that arrangement, Mason said he can easily make the space alcohol-free when he wants to.

"It's a unique space in that we can lock it up," Mason said of "The Ballroom." "It's taking a bar, removing all the elements of a bar and creating a performance space. We hope it's an opportunity for us and an opportunity for downtown Rhinelander."

Mason said his request is more about expanding activities in the city for children and teens than it is about expanding his business.

"It's not going to make or break the Elbo Room, but it's another opportunity for the space," Mason said.

The City Council will discuss the ordinance this month. A public hearing would also have to be held before the ordinance could be adopted.

Kyle Rogers may be reached at

Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: Pat Maass

Mr. Strid, I find it distressing that you had to question my ancestry simply because I suggested you should relax. Absit iniuria verbis. Since you like aphorisms, "I'm spending my children's inheritance".
Until next year Mr. Strid, audi et alteram partem. Happy New Year!

Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2012
Article comment by: Craig Strid

Pat, my number one priority upon retirement was to avoid those who felt it was their priority in life to tell people what to do and how to do it. I have been doing good until now.
Your comment reminded me of my coffee cup that I had in the Navy. It had a Latin saying on it, "illegitimi non cargorundum"

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012
Article comment by: Pat Maass

Mr. Strid, I sure hope that all law enforcement employees are able to retire and walk away from their job in a better way than you have. There are way too many wonderful things going on in this world to dwell on your former employment. I delivered boxes for almost 35 years, and trust me, now that I've been gone for three years, those boxes are still getting delivered, and it's not my worry anymore. I don't doubt your sincerity, but you really need to relax!

Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Article comment by: Joy Neeley

"Is Fourth Floor family entertainment?" Sure is. My entire family loves this music. That would be me, my husband, my teen and pre-teen. Would I take them to a bar to watch them? Depends on the time of day. Would I take them to an all ages show? Probably. I think music is important for everyone to enjoy, not just those over 21.

Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012
Article comment by: Chris Norling

Love him or hate him, John Mason is a smart businessman. He's not going to put his livelihood at risk over a few teen targeted events. I think it's safe to say that the person that will be watching what's going on closer than anyone will be John himself as he's going to be carrying the biggest risk.
Our area offers little to nothing for the under 21 crowd nowadays. Ideas have been tried before. Some lasted awhile and some didn't (Outer Limits, the Arcade, the Youth Center, etc.) John's offering something different and I applaud him for it.
Don't throw him or his plan under the bus based on "what if."

Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012
Article comment by: Tony Arten

The problem is, Craig, most of that bright youth move away the moment they get the chance. And who can really blame them? If we tell them we don't care when they are kids (lack of activities, opportunities, etc.) why would they want to stay as adults? Kids may not be taxpayers, but they are certainly citizens who deserve just as much recreational support as anyone else. Yet we wonder why drug use and teenage pregnancy are such issues here.

I remember when I was a teenager and broached this subject in my hometown. Often the reply was, "If you want more to do, get a job." Rather draconian if you ask me.

Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012
Article comment by: Tony Arten

In Milwaukee and Chicago, many alcohol serving establishments put on "All Ages" concerts and shows. There is no reason it can't be done here in Rhinelander or other Northwoods towns.

I do find the flap over this sort of thing funny. God forbid kids might be near alcohol at a show. That's bad, but selling liquor out of gas stations to motorists is OK. We don't even do anything but write a ticket for open container in a vehicle.

Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012
Article comment by: Craig Strid

Seriously Todd, the world does look fantastic through rose glasses, but a mechanic has to check the band wagon for safety before everyone jumps on.
Response and questions are based on what the owner defines as family entertainment. Because of the vagueness I presented questions covering the worst scenario or possible problems. The vagueness leaves too much to the imagination. Is Fourth Floor family entertainment? The type of entertainment will dictate challenges or lack of. As far as our area youth, I swell with pride and support for their academic, community and sportsmanship accomplishments. Our youth excel in all applications despite not having a lot to do.
Our Hodags rule. This area has launched many people of accomplishments from its schools and community core. It might be short on entertainment but it's rich in human potential and hometown pride.

Posted: Sunday, December 9, 2012
Article comment by: Todd Schmieding


First off, did you even read the story? It clearly stated that the venue would eliminate access to alcohol during these events. Eliminate means nobody would have access.

This business is exactly what our city and downtown needs. People have come from all over the state to see some of the acts, and these people stay in our hotels, eat at our restaurants, and shop in our stores.

Mr. Mason has brought some needed entertainment to our area and I applaud him for that. Now he is trying to bring in some entertainment for those under 21 and I wish him the best. Not sure if you have ever noticed, but teens tend to like to listen to music quite a bit.

I guess following your rules we will need to shut down Miller Park, Lambeau Field, and the Bradley Center. Because obviously these establishments that actually do serve alcohol and have family entertainment in the form of sports just don't work.

Posted: Friday, December 7, 2012
Article comment by: Dave Dart

I don't frequent the establishment mentioned that often, but I do know the Ballroom portion is a separate room and has its own entrance. There is one door between the bar and the Ballroom which can be closed/locked. Underage patrons could enter and exit without even being exposed to the bar atmosphere. I don't think it's a bad thing to allow our youth to have access to live music. Having raised four children of my own in Rhinelander, I know it's hard for parents to find things for their kids to do on Friday and Saturday night. Basically the choices are a movie or bowling or stay home and play video games. Mr. Strid raises some good questions, but I think if anyone looked into the situation, they'd find the potential is there for our youth to have some fun without being exposed to a bad element.
And I have to add, we need to give our kids some credit. This isn't 1975 when everyone drank at age 15. The big majority of our children are well behaved, trust worthy, and don't partake in drugs or alcohol.

Posted: Thursday, December 6, 2012
Article comment by: Craig Strid

Please give me examples of family orientated entertainment? Underage children can be escorted by their parents for family entertainment. What space will be made alcohol free? The bar and the ballroom are next to each other but not separate. Would the bar shut down for family entertainment? The ballroom will still be accessible to adults under the influence and possibly underage consumption brought in covertly. Or underage minors could illegally consume outside before entering the ballroom.
Mixing underage with young adults can result in emotional conflicts and the message your lending to is that good entertainment is associated with an attached bar. So legal age transition is just common use to this same liquor establishment out of habit. It is a training and learned behavior association. What is the projected profit and what are the cover charges?

Food for thought

Craig Strid

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