Regardless of what started this situation, it's clear the direction this issue needs to take. These clubs shouldn't have to drain their resources fighting about whether they're selling enough hamburgers to patrons who, let's face it, often eat before they go to a show anyway. They also shouldn't be legally bickering with a state agency over opening their doors a little later (especially when, according to Rennie, it can take more than two years to get new business hours approved by ABC).

California legislators need to draft new standards to fit the all-ages nightclubs that exist now, standards that aren't left open to the interpretation of whatever ABC official happens to be on duty. It's reasonable to ask these venues to serve food, especially when kids often aren't allowed to leave a rock club once they enter. But jacking up expectations that don't fit with the basic concept of a music venue (Bottom of the Hill is not the next Delfina) leaves business owners far too vulnerable.

Leno says he's hopeful that continued negotiations with ABC will have positive results for the all-ages clubs, but he also leaves open the possibility of changing the way these music venues are regulated. "We may find it's necessary to statutorily create a new kind of license," he says.

Live music is a huge part of San Francisco's livelihood—from both an entertainment and an economic standpoint. The all-ages component weaves kids into this vital cultural fabric, while employing a whole class of workers, from bartenders to sound engineers and promoters. Bottom of the Hill, Great American, Slim's, and Café du Nord aren't the corner dives you hit with a cheap fake ID for underage drinking. The ABC should stop wasting time counting hamburgers and instead worry about the California venues where minors really are being put at risk.

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