Minding the Drinking Age Gap in ATX

Anna-Kay Reeves

Between studying and socializing, college students work to find a delicate balance.

Among the distractions that keep students from studying and the assignments that keep the good times from rolling, there is another complicating factor: age. With 21 and up as the rule for admission at many music venues and hangout spots, friend groups can be split down the middle for who can go where.

For Spanish sophomore McKenzie Burk, as friends turn 21 while she’s still underage, this issue has become increasingly relevant.

“It’s definitely a problem I run into with friends,” Burk said. “And it honestly is frustrating. I have a May birthday, so it’ll be more than a year until I turn 21 and can go out with my older friends.”

For Burk, it’s normal to not see any 21 and up friends on the weekends.

“A lot of them have just turned 21 and they don’t want to hang back,” Burk said. “They want to go out and take advantage of being able to get into bars for the first time. If we do hang out, it’s usually us staying in someone’s apartment, but not going out together.”

Yet around Austin, quite a few spots can close the age gap.

While Burk said her friend group generally accepts the split and enjoys time with older friends during the week, psychology sophomore Kendall Baker and her friends try to accommodate the age gap in Austin’s many age-inclusive hangouts.

“It’s not a huge issue for us because the friends that are older will usually make an effort to do inclusive things,” Baker said. “It’s more fun when everyone can join.”

Baker said she and her friends don’t feel limited by the age restriction because there are many places throughout Austin that are 18 and up with bars available for older members of the group.

“We seek out places like Electric Church, Elysium and Stubb’s where we can all go,” Baker said. “Places like Cheer Up Charlies and Hotel Vegas will allow 18 and up for special events, so it’s just a matter of knowing where to go.”

With moves toward inclusive menus, from gluten free to vegan, many drink menus in Austin have drinks for all ages. In recent years many coffee houses have expanded their menus to include not only caffeine, but alcohol. Places like Radio Coffee & Beer, Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden and Cherrywood Coffeehouse offer age inclusive selections as well as scheduled live music.

“We work to be a place everyone can enjoy,” Cherrywood co-owner Jennifer Marks said. “We have over 24 beers on tap, and wine as well. Then of course, coffee and a full food menu.”

Marks said Cherrywood’s selection and location in a residential area makes it a place that is widely appealing to a diverse customer base to study, drink or hang out. The coffeehouse holds events from Geeks Who Drink on Saturdays to special shows geared toward kids on Sundays.

Radio Coffee & Beer has an of-age and underage friendly menu as well as age-inclusive shows, like their monthly Bluegrass night and trivia nights.

In a city like Austin, the age gap isn’t anything to mind.