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Posted at 9:56 AM ET, 02/ 8/2011

U Street Music Hall changes its 18-and-over policy

By Fritz Hahn

U Street Music Hall is tightening its 18-and-over policy on weekends. (Evy Mages/FTWP)

U Street Music Hall, one of the city's most popular dance clubs, will be changing its 18-and-over all-the-time admission policy as of February 18. Patrons under the age of 21 will only be allowed to enter on Friday or Saturday night if they have pre-purchased tickets. Those who just show up at the door will be turned away. (Admission on weeknights will remain 18-and-over.)

"As the world now knows, we've had some issues with behavior at the club," co-owner Will Eastman laughs, referring to a string of Twitter messages he unleashed on Saturday night after some abnormally bad behavior by patrons. "[The owners and employees] have all noticed a lot of things happening at the club. We're unhappy and we're going to try to change the behavior."

Since U Street Music Hall opened last spring, it has attracted some of the top DJs in the world -- and fans who came to dance reverently as Michael Mayer, Derrick Carter or Dave Nada spun. But, at the same time, it has also become a destination for people who don't care that some of the finest DJs in the city or the world are providing the music. They are piling in because the club is the only nightspot on U Street that allows people between the ages of 18 to 20 through the doors.

In the last few months, there has been an increase in attempts to use fake IDs ("I have a stack two feet high on my desk," Eastman says), an increase in complaints about guys trying to "flirt" too aggressively with women on the dance floor, people being rude or hostile to the club's staff and even threats of violence. As a result, the club owners decided they'd have to crack down on people who weren't there to hear a great DJ, but because it was the only place they could get in. "It's short of making the club 21-and-over only, which we didn't want to have to resort to," he says.

Eastman takes pains to stress that if you're an underage fan of Klever's clever electro, Jellybean Benitez's deep house grooves or his own wall-shaking Bliss dance party, the U Street Music Hall crew still wants you in the building. "I feel that it's important for people to have positive musical experiences at a young age," Eastman says. "Bliss was all-ages for eight years. I believe in all-ages shows, and we will not cut off that age group completely."

Last Saturday was the tipping point, Eastman says. I was there, and it's easy to understand his frustration. Outside, I watched a woman try to use her George Washington University student ID to get into the club. When the bouncer refused to accept it because it didn't have a date of birth on it, she responded, "But you let in people who are under 21, right? Just mark me as being under 21."

At the bar, a friend and I watched as a guy (clearly over 21) took off his coat -- and also tried to slip off the wristband identifying him as being of-age so he could hand it to the under-21 woman who was with him. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't smooth enough, and the bartender saw what he was doing.

As someone who has been going to U Hall since it opened, the crowd just felt ... off. Many of the people were more dressed up for a velvet-rope style place than the casual U Hall.

But the clincher came when a Steelers fan made repeated requests for Wiz Khalifa's anthem "Black and Yellow." After London DJ Sinden played the song, Eastman says, the patron asked for it be played again. Sinden refused. The patron then leaned into the DJ booth and slammed Sinden's laptop shut, stopping the music and forcing the DJ to reboot his laptop. (The miscreant was ejected from the club and is now banned for life.)

By Fritz Hahn  | February 8, 2011; 9:56 AM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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"The patron then leaned into the DJ booth and slammed Sinden's laptop shut, stopping the music and forcing the DJ to reboot his laptop."

And this is a world class DJ? Using a pre-mixed MP3 collection that he can fade in and out with some other pre-mixed MP3 song?

I prefer vinyl toting DJs who use real turn tables. Call it old and out-dated but the music would've been back on in 10 seconds or less had it been an old school DJ with his old school gear.

Posted by: Jotas | February 8, 2011 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Plenty of world-class DJs use laptops these days without using pre-mixed mp3 files. Look at Traktor or Ableton or ... a host of other programs that let you do everything you can do with vinyl and then some.

That said you should always disable any power saving or hibernation on your OS before you start DJing. I'm not sure if that would have helped Sinden but it's always a good thing.

Also, "Patrons under the age of 21 will only be allowed to enter on Friday or Saturday night if they have pre-purchased tickets" How is that going to work given everyone at UHall gets ID checked upstairs before the first doors and tickets are purchased downstairs inside the club before the second entryway? Not that it matters to my old self but seems like that could get messy.

Posted by: ToeMac | February 8, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

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