When we originally opened The Vortex back in 1992, we allowed parents to decide whether or not to bring their children into our bar. Sure, it was smoky, loud and full of questionable characters, but hey, your kid, your choice. It wasn’t until Georgia passed the Smoke-Free Air Act of 2005 that we changed our admission policy. That law required bars to become 100% “non-smoking” unless minors were banned from the premises. Easy choice. Bye-bye kiddies. And the best part? Our loyal patrons LOVED the change. In hindsight, I can’t believe we didn’t ban the little buggers sooner.
In case you hadn’t heard, as of February 1, 2019, The Vortex has eliminated ALL smoking inside our premises, not by government decree, but as the result of a month-long online customer survey. The poll was taken by 11,000 participants. Interestingly, there was a common theme in the comments section of our survey – and I’m paraphrasing here; “Whatever you do – please, for the love of god – stay adults only!”
During the survey a few sweet, naive, adorable folks also asked us the question, “If you go smoke-free, will you become an ‘all-ages’ venue again?” Hahahahaha! Oh, wait – they were serious. Well, the short answer is “no.” A slightly longer answer is, HELL NO. But if you are interested in a little extra context, sure – I’m all about transparency – so I’ll give it a shot.
To be honest, we had briefly toyed with the idea of allowing some form of limited access for minors, but once we started to recall all of the headaches we previously endured while operating under an “all-ages” policy, we quickly came to our senses. Dealing with drunks is bad enough, and babies are like tiny drunks, only they spend way less money. And once these mini-humans become mobile, they love nothing more than to flee the confines of their table (and their parents), to stagger around the premises – also like drunks. Not only do these unannounced visitors often annoy other patrons, but unstable tiny people running around can also create serious safety issues for servers who are also running around, only carrying large amounts of heavy plates and glassware.
And let’s not forget about the ridiculous messes that kids make. Cheerios, Goldfish, crackers – basically anything they can get their sticky little mitts on – will all eventually end-up on the floor. And teething tykes love nothing more than cramming condiments and salt shakers into their wet little mouths. Ugh. So gross. At least when drunks do it we can throw them out. It’s funny that we really don’t miss any of this. Sure, kids have their place, but The Vortex ain’t it. And it’s not as though there aren’t a million other places where kids are welcome. Besides, bringing high chairs, changing tables and booster seats back into The Vortex at this point just seems like blasphemy.
Okay, okay. So we can all agree that children are a hassle, but what about adults over 18? They’re really no problem, right? Wrong. The main issue here is that The Vortex is required to enforce various liquor laws to maintain our Liquor License. The problem is that college kids generally don’t give a shit. For example, a group of six young adults will enter. Four are over 21, and two are not. Their server explains that if the two underaged people are caught drinking alcohol, the whole group will be asked to leave. Inevitably, the underaged pair will attempt to sneak drinks, so the whole group is asked to leave, which then creates a giant ruckus. Look, we don’t make the laws, but we are required to enforce them. And we really don’t want to play “policeman” any more than we have to, because that’s just a big ol’ pain in the rear.
But what about teens with their parents? What about special occasions? What about, what about, what about… Listen, our current “21-and-over” policy seems pretty straightforward, right? Yet people still show up with their tiny spawn in tow, and are highly annoyed when they are not allowed into the bar. “We drove all the way from Alabama, and now you’re not going to let us in because we brought our babies?” Yes. That is correct. Scenarios like this happen way too often, especially considering that our age restriction is CLEARLY posted all over our website. So, do we really need to complicate matters further? We don’t think so.
I guarantee, even if we DID post all the information necessary to offer “limited access for minors,” many people would still turn up at the wrong time, or on the wrong day, or at the wrong location, and then curse us because they never took the time to do their own research. And therein lies the real problem. People revel in being willfully ignorant, even though they have access to all of the information mankind has ever compiled right in the palm of their hand. Pro-Tip: If you have never been someplace it’s always a good idea to check-out the website first, especially if a road trip is involved. It’s not rocket science people.
The Vortex is a bar, first and foremost. Admitting people under the legal drinking age just creates operational challenges we simply no longer wish to deal with. The fact of the matter is that The Vortex is widely known as a place where adults can go to have adult fun in an adults-only environment. And celebrating your 21st birthday at The Vortex has even become a right of passage in Atlanta. We are totally cool with all of this, and our loyal fans are too. I personally think it’s reassuring to know that in this crazy, mixed-up world, The Vortex will be “21-and-over” – forever! So come on in for some kid-free and (newly) smoke-free, adults-only fun at The Vortex. Now that’s what I call a “Happy Meal.”