The Lost Downtown Demographic
Teens and young adults want to go out with their friends, and they like to stay out as late as possible. That's a fact of life. But where do most of these teens and young people spend their time? Preferably somewhere they can park their hand-me-down, four-wheeled, newfound freedom machine: the automobile. But, their weekend nights usually doesn't get far past the parking lot. Minors aged fifteen to twenty are the lost downtown demographic.
Most of the time the only places that allow minors under twenty-one on their premises after 10pm are movie theaters, gas stations, and the occasional fro-yo hut. If there aren't any other options, most teens choose public places where nobody is admitted past dark, like sport courts, skateboard parks, and playgrounds. Downtown is where the majority of nightlife lies for those over twenty-one, and it needs to be a place where minors can enjoy themselves too.
If minors, high school and college-aged, had places to go at night on the weekends, we may see the next generation making better choices, such as not going to dangerous house parties. An annual survey, conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, says:
"One-third of teens and nearly half of 17-year olds attend house parties where parents are present and teens are drinking, smoking marijuana or using cocaine, ecstasy or prescription drugs. CASA's survey also reveals that teens who say parents are not present at the parties they attend are 16 times likelier to say alcohol is available, 15 times likelier to say illegal and prescription drugs are available and 29 times likelier to say marijuana is available, compared to teens who say parents are always present at the parties they attend."
Hanging out at the mall isn't cool anymore. Establishments that cater to minors, at least those fifteen years and older, could find themselves very successful because current alternatives are either considered immature or are illegal. Diversifying the downtown core will only help the city's revitalization efforts and can positively affect all businesses downtown, regardless of target audience.
Has your downtown neglected the lost demographic? How would you fix this social issue of "lost" minors?
Credit: Data and images linked to sources. Images taken by author.