After something of a long, strange trip, Port City Music Hall's quest to be an 18+ venue has come to fruition. As of the EOTO show last Friday, the venue's liquor classification in the eyes of the state has been changed to Class 11, which means the venue can always allow attendees aged 18 and up through the door, and minors are allowed if accompanied by an adult.
Of course, this is great for college kids and the like who've missed out on plenty of great shows over the past two years — the local Two for Tuesday series, Sufjan Stevens, the Hold Steady, Sara Watkins (the list is long) — but, says owner Rob Evon, it's also great for the club's financial standing and longevity.
"I think we've lost out on about $100,000 in ticket sales each year because we've been forced to be 21-plus," he says. "I'm really excited to capitalize on this because it's going to put my business model where it needs to be."
It also, he says, opens the venue up to touring bands who are maybe getting spins locally on WCYY but were uninterested in playing Portland unless they could tap into that 18+ market where many bands thrive. "It really levels the playing field," Evon says, since other markets have similar venues with the ability to do 18+ or all-ages events.
Speaking of all-ages events, Evon says there will be more of those as well. His license allows for them, and though his lease and general business liability concerns prohibit him from making every show all-ages, the upcoming Sparks the Rescue CD-release and MAMM SLAM finals shows will be all-ages on April 30, and there will be more booked in the future.
So, what allowed for the change? Port City's new kitchen. As Port City commits to doing at least $50,000 a year in food sales, the new Class 11 designation becomes open to them. Teaming with Black Tie Catering, Port City now offers a full dinner menu. "I'm still a firm believer that if you go and look at the defined classes for liquor licenses you'll see that Port City most resembles the Performing Arts Center or Auditorium class," which would have allowed Port City to be 18+ from the get-go, Evon says with a little bitterness, "but for the large part, we're now encompassing a much larger demographic that wants to come to our shows."
In order to capitalize on the kitchen further, Evon says he'll be doing more all-sit-down shows, like the ones coming up with Molly Hatchet and Beth Hart, and start times may move up so that doors are at 7 pm and performances at 8, so Port City can be open closer to the traditional dinner hour. You may even see shows in the future, Evon says, where dinner and tickets are a single price, and you can choose what you want to eat right at the time of ticket purchase.