Plan to Ban Young Adults from Downtown Businesses

January 12, 2012 Updated Jan 12, 2012 at 12:22 AM EDT

By John Borsa

January 12, 2012 Updated Jan 12, 2012 at 12:22 AM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - There is mixed reaction to a proposal to ban underage adults from bars, nightclubs and restaurants in Buffalo's Entertainment District.

Some bar owners said the plan is bad for business, while others say public safety should be the main concern in the downtown core.

The alcohol drinking age in New York is 21, but 18, 19 and 20-year-olds are still allowed in businesses that serve alcohol.

The proposal, by Ellicott District Common Councilman Darius Pridgen, would no longer give bar and nightclub owners the choice.

"It's really a matter of public safety," said Pridgen, who introduced the measure before the council on Tuesday.

"It will be a thorn in the side of those businesses who are currently allowing young people in with fake id's, not monitoring what the under 21 age group is doing in their club," he said.

Club Marcella, one of the first nightclubs to open in the Chippewa Entertainment District 16 years ago, allows people 18 and over into the establishment.

Michael Slyder, Chief Financial Officer of Club Marcella, said his business successfully monitors underage patrons.

Laws are already in place for bar and nightclub owners who do not follow the rules.

"The councilmember has the best intentions at heart, he really is interesting in preserving public safety," said Slyder. "The problem is in doing this you're creating a problem of economic disparity."

Slyder's business is on the west side of Main Street, within Pridgen's proposed zone. The east side of Main Street is not.

Slyder said that would put his business at a disadvantage if a competitor opened a nightclub across the street, outside the zone.

"The 18, 19, 20-year-olds would go across the street, if someone opens a bar, and their friends who are 21 to 23 will follow and now you've lost a majority of your crowd," he said.

"So overnight, it could kill our business," Slyder added.

Pridgen said he consulted with nightclub and bar owners and many of them agree with his proposal, including Mark Croce.

Croce owns several nightclubs in the area, including one inside the newly renovated Statler City, which is also in the 21 and over only zone.

"If we continue down the path we're going that we risk losing a lot of business," said Croce, who said recent reports of violence in the area are scaring customers away.

"It's not right to be mixing these youth with the adults and I think that's what's killing the district," he said.