Underage entertainers again allowed to perform in bars and lounges

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission is changing its policy and will now allow underage entertainers to perform in lounges and bars where minors are prohibited.

Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission is reversing a change in policy made in 2007

Musician Olivia Rose Leaf, 17, has been fighting for eight years to have the AGLC change its policy to allow underage performers to play in bars and lounges. (CBC)

Olivia Rose Leaf can't stop smiling.

"This day means so much to me," the 17 year-old musician, who performs under the name Olivia Rose, said Friday.

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission announced Friday it is reversing a policy that since 2007 has prevented underage performers from performing in bars and lounges that sell liquor.

"I've been fighting for this since I was nine years old," Leaf said.

`It'll be great to perform to a wider audience.'- Olivia Rose Leaf

She will be turning 18 in June so only stands to benefit from the policy change for a few more months.

But she said it will mean a lot to other young performers she knows.

"It really opens your eyes to the world of performing," she said.

In March 2007, as a result of concern for public safety, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission removed a policy that allowed minors as entertainers in minors-prohibited establishments.

"Industry and attitudes change," AGLC president Bill Robinson said.

Programs such as Best Bar None have improved the training of staff in the industry, and improved the overall safety in bars, he said.

Approvals should only take days

With the policy change, bars and lounges can request approval from the AGLC to permit minors to enter the premises as entertainers. The approval process is expected to take a few days each time.

The operating history of the bar or lounge will be reviewed to make sure it has a record of being safe, Robinson said.

Only a very small number of venues in the province have been deemed unsafe by the AGLC, although Robinson said he couldn't give any details on what qualifies as unsafe.

The policy change is welcome news, said David Shepherd, MLA for Edmonton-Centre, and a musician himself.

"This is a great step forward for our music scene, for young performers, and for our province as a whole," Shepherd said. "It makes areas like Edmonton's downtown a much more attractive place to visit and to live."

The Needle Vinyl Tavern on Jasper Avenue offers live music performances.
It will be interesting to see all the young talent that comes through the doors, said Rebecca Thede, events coordinator at The Needle Vinyl Tavern. (CBC)

"It opens up the opportunity and the floodgates," said Rebecca Thede, events co-ordinator at the venue. "I'm excited for this opportunity that they [underage performers] can start reaching out and grow their experience."

It will be interesting to see who comes along and all the young talent that will come through the doors, she added. 

While she hasn't been invited to play a bar yet, Leaf is excited about what the opportunity could mean for her music career.

"It'll be great to perform to a wider audience," she said.

"I've always been attracted to the stage. It's always been my safe place and my home."