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Editorial: All-ages concerts pose deadly mix for youths

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Some ideas are just wrong from the get-go.

Mixing young teens with alcohol-consuming adults in a wild setting of pounding music, pulsing lights, booze and drugs is a terrible one at best, a deadly cocktail at worst.

A New Mexico State Police investigation into the death of 14-year-old Hannah Bruch, who died after attending an all-ages dance party at Expo New Mexico, has determined she had taken the illegal drug Ecstasy before attending with several friends. A pending toxicology report is expected to reveal her cause of death.

But the 130-page State Police report also notes there were teens with alcohol inside the venue and adults were bringing drinks into areas where minors were present. The Foam Wonderland show was billed as intended for those 16 and older, but it appeared to be open to all ages.

This tragedy has a familiar ring to it, as all-ages events in Albuquerque have ended badly before.

Club 7 was closed down in 2008 after a multi-agency law enforcement raid found the club packed with nearly twice as many patrons – mostly minors – as legally allowed, a potpourri of illegal drugs, fake IDs and scantily clad underage girls mingling with older men who had consumed alcohol. Two overdoses had been linked to that location, one of them fatal, when it was known as the Collosseum.

In 2003, a 16-year-old Santa Fe girl was murdered at Albuquerque’s Sunshine Theater during a hip-hop concert. The club frequently allowed teens in for events.

Since Bruch’s death, Expo New Mexico has stopped offering all-ages electronic music shows while it reviews its policies. The State Police investigation said Expo security and medical personnel did their jobs, but how can that be when drinking adults and booze were in the teen area? That is simply unacceptable.

The larger question remains whether such concerts are appropriate for underage teens when alcohol is available.

Meanwhile, if Expo or the promoters it works with recommend age limits for events – as was done for Foam Wonderland – they should enforce them.

And if alcohol is to be served at all-ages events, then the venue should beef up its security to ensure drinks are handled only by those 21 and over with a valid ID and that adult drinkers stay in designated areas and don’t mingle with teens.

Better oversight of these events is long overdue.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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