According to the e-mail, the city of Lincoln basically told them that there's a law that prohibits people younger than 19 (the age of majority in Nebraska) from public dancing in music venues. Feel free to re-read that last part again. No "public dancing."
I took a look at the online version of Lincoln's municipal code book, which is a book of all of the laws of the City of Lincoln. There is a section on public dancing, which you can read here. There's also a section on teenage clubs that might be relevant.
Anyway, the "public dancing" law basically says that 1) you have to have a permit to have a public dance and 2) there can't be alcohol if minors are present.
There's actually nothing specifically dealing with music venues, but it appears that the Box Awesome falls in that wonderful category of places where public dances are held.
Now, I understand the Footloose reference. In the e-mail, Box Awesome appeals to Lincoln to help them come up with a law that makes sense. The aforementioned "no public dancing" law certainly does not.
They can look to Omaha for a law that seems to work well. The "music venue ordinance" here (also known as the "minors needs permission slips" law) is a royal pain for the music venue owners, so I'm told. But, they get to let the kids in and, if my simple observations hold true, those kids make up a large part of the audience at places such as Slowdown and the Waiting Room.
Anyway, if Lincoln wants to have a music scene, they need to let kids come into their shows. Their teen years are when they're forming a real opinion of music and they'll want to go to shows. It would be a shame for them not to be able to go and be stuck with stuff at the state fair or what little comes to the Pershing Auditorium.
And, to be honest, if they don't get it in Lincoln, they're going to drive to Omaha to get it.
Not to mention that some bands want all ages venues. And they'll skip towns to get it.
Here's the full e-mail, if you'd like to read it:
Got some bad news handed down to us folks. Apparently there is a law in Lincoln that states that people younger than the age of 19 are not allowed to engage in public dancing at places considered to be music venues. The Bourbon Theatre falls under that category, and we have been informed that we can no longer let minors younger than 19 into our late shows. This is effective immediately. On our end we plan to talk with city officials to see why this law is in effect and work with them to enact legislation that fits with the times. With Omaha just up the road offering all ages shows (with parental consent for people younger than 18), Lincoln as a city needs to become more forward thinking if we are to remain a vibrant cultural city. Any thoughts or comments are welcome regarding this matter, but please understand that our hands are tied and we are only doing this because it’s the law. Thanks for your continued support and we will keep you posted with any developments.