The Maryville City Council decided that more public input is needed before making the call on raising the bar entry age to 21 on Monday night.
The issue was an agenda item, but mayor Glenn Jonagan almost immediately suggested that the council slow down before further addressing the proposed change.
"Let's review where we've been," Jonagan said during the meeting. "We have had a review from Public Safety and we've heard from students. The only thing left is the community."
After hearing from Northwest Missouri State University students last week, a few concerns were brought up, including councilwoman Reidel mentioning that the council has not talked to all bar owners, and Jonagan pointing out that the general public's concerns should be involved in the discussion as well.
Mick Hoskey, owner of the bar and dance club Molly's, also suggested that a separate meeting be held between owners and the council.
Hoskey and other opponents have stated many reasons for not raising the entry age. These include an increase in house parties where alcohol abuse statiscally seems to be more prevalent, along with other alcohol violations, along with security at bars.
But not all owners are against the change. Several establishments already impose a 21-and-over policy, and even some that don't are in favor of increasing the age limit.
Paul Thompson, owner of the Palm's Bar and Grill, said he thinks it would be a good thing for not only the community, but for his business.
"Honestly, I'm all for it," Thompson said. "We're basically tired of having to take the liability of having to babysit minors."
Concerning the opposition's point that revenue would be lost, Thompson doesn't see a potential problem, and even though he is in favor, doesn't understand the reason behind the proposal.
He said that minors should not be purchasing drinks anyway, so not allowing them into bars will not affect sales.
Thompson pointed out that all drinking establishments would benefit if there is a level playing field, considering that some already don't allow minors.
"You get groups of people who won't go in because a few of them are under 19," Thompson said. "That would be the same if the age was 21. But if all bars had the same rules, that wouldn't amount to money walking away to somewhere else."
He also said that he believes the issue of house parties would not change.
"Guess what, kids are drinking at house parties," Thompson said. "They come in at 10 or 10:30, like clockwork, every weekend. They're minors, and they're already drunk when they get here."
According to Thompson, most of the problems he encounters with underage drinking stems from minors who are already intoxicated when they arrive.
"They'll do anything to sneak a drink," Thompson said. "A person of age will come buy two drinks then sneak off to a corner. They go in the bathrooms, under tables if they have to."
Page 2 of 2 - Those in favor of raising the age also argue that there are alternatives to house parties that can be explored, including more activities in the community that are held in alcohol-free environments.
The question of whether or not to raise the bar entry age raises many issues, including Maryville Public Safety's bar patrol.
Officers who visit bars to help monitor underage drinking and prevent unruly behavior work overtime hours for the duty.
Public Safety director Keith Wood said that even if the entry age is raised, the patrol would continue.
"Just because the age limit is raised doesn't mean people won't try," Wood said.
"We would still use our minor operatives and other methods to ensure that bars are complying and no minors are drinking."
The overtime hours are paid for with an Enforcement of Underage Drinking Laws grant, federal monies trickled down through the state. Wood said that his department has received this grant for the last seven years.
The issues of safety, entertainment and revenue will likely be re-occurring themes of the debate as the council plans to set more public forum dates during their meeting next week.