The Interns' Guide: Where to Go When You're Under 21

By Fritz Hahn Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 12, 2007; 1:02 PM

Try to go out in Adams Morgan, Georgetown, Clarendon, Dupont Circle or Bethesda on a Friday night and you'll find large bouncers in almost every doorway checking IDs and turning away anyone who's not 21. Even coffeeshops (like Adams Morgan's Tryst) and pool halls (Dupont's vast Buffalo Billiards) are open only to patrons of legal drinking age.

While there's no law on the books that explicitly bars 18-year-olds from any establishment where alcohol is served in the District of Columbia, most bar and club owners have learned the hard way that one bad apple can spoil their business: Just one underage patron drinking can lead to a suspension of a bar's liquor license, large fines and possibly the closure of the establishment. Little surprise, then, that most bars choose not to take the risk by only allowing patrons 21 and over.

However, if you're between the ages of 18 and 21, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy a night on the town without worrying about being turned away because of your age.

Live Music and Dancing | Hanging Out | 18-and-Over Club Nights

Live Music and Dancing

Music fans should have few problems, as Washington's major concert venues -- including the 9:30 club, the Black Cat and the Birchmere -- are all ages, all the time, as are some of the indie-centric spaces, like the Rock and Roll Hotel and the Warehouse Next Door. But some smaller clubs offering live entertainment, including Iota, Galaxy Hut, DC9 and Madam's Organ, are 21 and over, with few exceptions.

If you're looking to go dancing, some of the area's most exclusive lounges and nightclubs, including Love, Avenue and MCCXXIII, offer a token "college night" once a week, which attracts mixed crowds who sip cocktails as well as sodas.

Downtown nightclub Platinum has bounced between 18-and-over and 21-and-over nights, but is now 18-and-over Thursday through Sunday, with a mix of hip-hop, house, Latin and reggae music, depending on the event. On the rock side, the Mousetrap, a long-running all-ages Britpop and indie-rock dance night, happens once a month on the main stage of the Black Cat, and there are events featuring soul, indie, hip-hop, electro and '80s DJs every weekend on the club's smaller back stage.

Click here to see a longer list of weekly 18-and-over club nights.

Most regular swing-dancing events, such as those at Glen Echo's Spanish Ballroom or the Chevy Chase Ballroom, are all-ages. Sadly, many of the area's biggest and best salsa nights are off-limits to anyone who isn't of age.

Hanging Out

If you'd rather sit around and talk to friends instead of hitting a crowded club or concert hall, you have a variety of options.

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