Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Starline: Now exclusively 21 & up


Say so long to all-ages events at Starline, one of the staples in Fresno’s live entertainment.

On Thursday, Starline was told by Fresno PD that, effective immediately, it could only act as a 21-and-up venue.

The good news: Starline management says it hopes it’s only a temporary change.

Starline’s ability to function as an all-ages venue was thrust into the spotlight after it was discovered that the driver of the SUV involved in deadly Greyhound bus accident a few weeks back had been at a dance party at Starline that night. Investigators determined that the under-age girl driving the SUV was drunk, but there’s no proof that she was drinking at Starline. Here on the site, we discussed the possible ramifications for Starline.

I’m told the rule change isn’t intended to be punishment related back to the accident. Instead, the issue revolves around Starline’s conditional use permit, which says only people 21-and-older are allowed inside the club once live entertainment starts.

Starline, however, has functioned as a an all-ages venue for years. The way the situation was explained to me, when the adjoining Starline Grill was opened in 2004, a new conditional use permit was issued as 21-and-up. It was supposed to be changed by the city, I’m told, but that never happened. Nonetheless, all-ages events went on for years.

Starline management says it hopes to resolve the issue soon. In the meantime, this may effect some upcoming events. Nothing has been moved or canceled yet, but a Monday show with Hyper Crush is one that would likely draw a heavy under-21 crowd. Starline has rock concerts scheduled tonight and Saturday.

One of its most popular events for the under-21 crowd is Integration, the gay-friendly dance party organized by Queer Fresno that happens every Wednesday. That’s the event the girls in the accident attended. Starline also offers a salsa night on Thursdays, a local rock night on Tuesdays, and another dance night on Sundays.

RELATED: I’ve also heard from a few sources that Fresno PD is cracking down on a number of other nightclubs/nightlife hangouts. So don’t be surprised if we hear more stories like this in the future.

Responses to "Starline: Now exclusively 21 & up"

BigJ7489 says:

Well, this only makes sense for them, and they were probably headed in this direction anyway.

Its unfortunate, but maybe a new all ages venue can start up to fill that gap that doesn’t serve alcohol.

Obed says:

There is an other all ages venue.
It’s called Club Retro.
Opened up a few months ago.

On the other side, this sucks, I was planning on attending the Down Word show tomorrow.

Debi says:

I find it interesting that Starline didn’t address this CUP issue before they were forced to. They should have not assumed it was “taken care of”. Also find it strange that the city didn’t realize there was an issue, until they were forced to find one… hmm

Mike Oz says:

There’s also Kuppajoe, Chinatown Youth Center and Frank’s Place/Star Place for all-ages live music.

Stephen says:

And I’ll start the ball rolling. I heard from both media members and FPD that Rick Mirigian, he of the City partnership, had much to do with pulling folks conditional use permits and then pointing out the non-compliance folks. The media passed on the story after investigating (ie the Fresno Bee) but just the investigation must’ve put a bug in the FPD’s ear.

I’ve also heard/seen that FPD has come down with strict enforcement standards/warnings to Palomino’s (no more dancing or live music), Thai Palms, Ovidios, and Elementz.

I get the CYA nature of the FPD in light of all the publicity of late. I also get that folks were skirting a few key lines of their CUP (conditional use permit). Finally, I get that the FPD has to START with a ‘comply with everything’ rule.

But the rule of the law and the spirit of the law are two different things, and I hope a middle ground can be found. Palomino’s was having full-on dance nights (with full security and no issues). But now they can’t even have Nate Butler at the keyboards playing dinner music (CUP says ‘no live music’). C’mon now.

I get that Starline’s CUP says ‘dancing only between 9pm and 1am,’ but really? 1am? Not 1:40 when the music shuts down? And what about the indie shows that start at 7pm? What about the indie shows where no one is dancing, just standing in front of the stage?

Does this mean the reunion of the Beetles on New Year’s Eve has to stop at 1am?? The Double Doors can’t do their full 3 sets?

And I see also that, if entertainment starts on the club side, the Starline Grill has to go 21 and over also. Whaaa? So if a family with 2 kids is enjoying a pizza and Pecha Kucha gets going at 7pm on the club side the family with the pizza has to leave? The FPD answer is ‘yes.’

How will this affect Reel Pride? Rogue fest? All day music fests, fund-raisers, etc etc? This would make Starline Grill the only 21+ restaurant in town.

I’m certain the FPD will say ‘hey, we didn’t make the owners sign those CUPs! We’re just finally enforcing the letter of the law.’

But the CUP demands were drastically updated in recent years to make them more user-friendly…but in order to re-do ones CUP, there’s a very long waiting process and cost involved.

I also figure the police are going to go with their standard “we were getting many neighbor complaints/calls to service from those establishments.”

Hey, police? That’s your job. Yes, clubs mix alcohol and people and sometimes jerk people hurt each other (or shoot at each other). But that doesn’t mean Roe didn’t have security in place inside. It also means people will now find their own places to drink and fight, in places without security.

These clubs provide jobs. They provide a big part of the city’s culture and a place where a large majority of the people go in peace, for fun and safety. Starline is a place where kids can enjoy Never Shout Never safely. Where under-21 performers can practice their skills at open mic night. The Grill is a haven for community theatre kids enjoying a soda post-show.

Sorry. I mean ‘was’ that place.

Gosh, I really hope the FPD and these places can negotiate a middle ground that works for the public AND the public safety. If the FPD wants more security, more training, less loitering, then by all means demand it.

Here’s hoping calmer minds prevail AND the FPD gets safer clubs out of the process. Here’s hoping.

Starline must be all ages! says:

Facebook group to share voice your comments regarding this unfair decision

Fae says:

This is terrible. I turn 18 on SATURDAY and I was really looking forward to all of the great 18+ events like Lush. I’m so sad. I really hope that this changes soon.

Jay Parks says:

Stephen – good post. It SEEMS that CUP enforcement locally is a funny thing. We’ll look the other way unless there are complaints (Van Ness Auto?) or unless a negative incident puts the spotlight on a business (Starline?).

The enforcement policy should be proactive – dialoguing with business to shape/change CUPs to accurately reflect the businesses’ ACTUAL practices, instead of reactive/punitive. I’ll grant that, sometimes, violations of CUPs need to be addressed by the cessation of whatever practice is in violation…But the Starline example seems reactionary to me.

This change is too bad, forces under-agers to congregate in unsupervised places, and I hope it is only temporary.

Eli says:

Awesome. The joys of being nineteen and being told you can’t see some live entertainment because they serve alcohol in the establishment. I’ve been a frequent goer of the Starline for so many years now and for them to do this is irritating to say the least. Under age people who rely on alcohol to “have fun” are going to get alcohol whether it’s at a club, a party, their parents or what have you. In that case start the prohibition again… and even that won’t stop people from drinking at whatever age.

Dang it. I can’t to to the Cellar Door, I can’t go to Audie’s and now I won’t be able to go to the Starline. What’s next?

Big Tim says:

Its interesting that someone here suggested that some other all ages venue will fill the spot of the Starline. But… as a promoter… I’m going to let you in on a little secret: All ages venues rarily survive without a bar.

Big Game, The Belmont, The Exit were three all ages venues all in the same building that didn’t survive because they had no other income.

But what about Club Retro and Kuppajoe you ask? Well, if you are part of a church you might make it but that comes with its own downside: Censorship.

Chinatown Youth Center is an option but its position is shaky at best.

I have not been to Frank’s place yet so I can’t really comment on that one.

Every venue comes with pros and cons… and each one hits a certain demographic and are all needed to help Fresno be an great place for music. The Starline has a big place in the Fresno music scene and it would be a shame if it were to be turned into a 21+ only club.

Chris says:

This just seems to be a “what are you doing about it?” enforcement of the rules. When the dust settles and things calm down, the restrictions on the permits should work it self out as long as a local politician or parental advocacy group doesn’t piggy back the media coverage.

rob says:

well i hope this leads to more underground myspace parties and raves; we all know how safe those are.

i’m still surprised starline can get anyone to believe its a restaurant; slap a menu on the wall with food from next door (remember prior to the “grill”) and you’re good to go i guess… i’ve always thought of it as a live performance venue but if you’re going to get a conditional use permit as a restaurant that’s the dance you dance

i really wish the city and not the police were involved in the permit process; the police have unchecked power in fresno when it comes to permit approval and wording leaving owners with no means of appeal

maybe starline can reopen in a county island ;)

Alli says:

I’m not sorry to hear this at all! What’s sorry about it is that the Starline went on all the media channels after the horrible accident with the young women (who may/may not have been served at the Starline)saying they would remain vigilent against serving minors.

Then what happened at the 100 Monkeys show they just had? Place was CRAWLING with teen girls, and even a little boy! One of my best friends who was with me looks like she’s barely over 18 (even though she’s 25) and they DID NOT card her, just slapped a wrist band on her wrist and took the next person in line. Really Starline? Is that remaining vigilent and doing proper business? Clearly, Fresno PD did the right thing, maybe this will teach them to get their act together.

Joy Unconfined says:

Dear City of Fresno and Powers That Be…

You have so much potential, but then you keep having weird knee-jerk reactions that have VERY little to do with the REAL problems we have here, and any kind of progress toward becoming even slightly competitive as a place to live, work, and play is completely destroyed.

Way to go. You cannot behave like small town midwest when you’re a growing, and TRYING to thrive, urban environment.

Grow up. Fresno is NOT a small town with a Main Street. The rest of us have figured it out. STOP trying to live in the 1950s, and understand that if Fresno is going to be competitively successful, you have to behave like the big city you’ve become.

And yes, we CAN continue to be an agriculture-based economy, with family values oriented communities along with becoming a REAL culturally diverse, entertainment-filled, thriving city that includes the urban lifestyle. We might even make it to “destination city” if we get our act together!

Big Tim says:

So Alli..

What you are saying is that your friend who is over 21 got a wristband? So no laws were broken. Got it.

And… I hope you realize that the under 21 and over 21 wristbands are different colors at Starline. You have to show your ID to get the 21+ wristband. I have been to dozens of shows at The Starline and they have some of the strictest security in town.

You seem to object to the idea that there were teenagers at a venue a venue that (until right now) was ALL AGES.

BRAD says:


Stephen says:

Alli, your friend is a regular, and everyone knows how old she is, especially the uber-vigilant door guy who works there each and every night.

100 Monkeys was a super fun show, crowded with security…EXTRA security. You think they were going to take chances after the media blitz?? No WAY.

And Joy, this affects you so much. For those who don’t know, Joy is the great co-singer for Suicide Lounge. They perform often at the Starline Grill and are very popular. Joy is also a dedicated mother of the smartest 15 year old girl around, who also likes to attend the shows (and sometimes sings herself).

Joy’s podling wouldn’t drink alcohol anyway, and enjoys her time with her mother. You know, parents and kids together, that kinda thing. Unfortunately, if music is playing next door at the club, Joy’s wonderful daughter will NOT be able to join her at the restaurant.

I’m with others here, hoping cooler heads prevail and the owner can work a decent compromise with the FPD.

Joy Unconfined says:

Thank you Stephen. I wasn’t going to cry publicly about this inconvenience, but you’re absolutely right.

I’m more than a little annoyed that I can no longer have my daughter join me on the evenings we perform at the Grill. It has been great to have her there, to let her see and experience real life, among adults, so she can learn how to act (and sometimes by example how NOT to act) under my supervision. But now we are subject to FPD’s prejudice against people under 21, and young people are not afforded the opportunity to prove they can handle the responsibility of being out among real people. It is a small percentage of under 21 people who behave so irresponsibly, but rather than proactively find and discipline those, they apply a blanket “fix” and ruin everything.

As well as Neighborhood Thrift Cafe on the corner of Olive and Palm. Style Like Revelators CD Release, Tonight!

Stephen I have to say regular or not Dennis should be checking for everyone’s ID no matter what. He is unable to know if someone’s ID is expired or if they even have it with them, unless he checks. All it takes is for FPD to come in, do an ID check and one of these “regulars” not have their ID with them that night then BAM super fucked. Specially with all this heat I’d expect Dennis to be more on his A game than that.

It’s that kind of mentality that got the club in this heap to begin with.

A Nonny Muss says:

This probably opens up a whole other can of worms, but I’ve never understood why a person who is old enough to vote the idiots that affect our lives into office, is old enough to go to big boy/girl jail for doing something wrong and is old enough to voluntarily join, serve and even DIE for our country are treated like children for 3 more years before they can truly be “adults”. Just for the record, I’m 33 :)

DW says:

Some observations….

Looks like Code Enforcement is being reactive, which they typically are, due to lack of staff. We all know that many venues in town probably have been violating their Conditional Use Permits (CUP) for years with no action being taken by the City.

Now that the City is cracking down, what options do these venues have? They can comply with the existing CUP or apply for a new one under the new Nightclub, Tavern, and Restaurant ordinance. The ordinance abolished dance permits and only allows Nightclubs to have dancing. The hours of operation can be restricted, depending on the zoning, and venues with patios have to do noise studies and noise abatement if they’re too close to homes.

There is locally and nationally a trend of thought by the prevention folks that one of the best ways to prevent substance abuse problems is to limit the availability of those substances, legal or otherwise. Limiting the number of businesses selling intoxicants such as alcohol is part of that strategy.

Ed St.Louis says:

Once again, the City Of Fresno has reared their ugly Ostrich Heads from the sands in which they hide their eyes. The fact of the matter here is 6 families lost members whom they held dear to their hearts because, 1 person made a bad decision. So the City Of Fresno must rectify this problem by punishing a hole demographic class of people. Does this solve the problem? I think not. It is my opinion that the lack of fun things to do in this town for the hormone driven, young adults adds to our drug and alcohol problems in this town. Instead of closing venues down that caters to this age group. We, as a city, need to be creating more venues for this college age crowd. Otherwise, we, as a collective city are just adding fuel to this fire. Big Mike and Dennis do an excellent job of checking ID’s, monitering the crowd, and ensuring a great show is happening on a nightly basis at The Starline. On another note, I have a lot of communication with out of town bands. And, more often times than not, the attraction for the bands to play in Fresno, is the All Ages Venue and the paying bodies that can fit into the club. Way to go Fresno!! You’ve once again killed a good thing for your Downtown Dreams.

Netanii says:

Some of the best local bands have underage musicians in them. Where is the personal responsibility? Blaming the Starline for this tragic accident will not stop irresponsible people from driving drunk. Every time I went to the Starline to watch my son’s band play, I was carded and I’m 46.

Alli says:

Bottom line, I know what I saw. We are in downtown occasionally, but would never be confused as regulars. Two, I know the difference in color of wristbands, please don’t try to insult me to make your point.

Is this decision going to help anyone? No, idiots are going to break the law regardless. But look at the big picture: In light of the accident, had FPD did a bust, they just might find that the Starline wasnt being as vigilant as they should. Then they get shutdown, and there are NO shows. It would behoove them to not let things slip, it’s about permits now. Childish by the City? Yeah, but they can’t run the risk of being liable in light of what happened. The Starline should treat those permits like I’m sure they treat their taxes, paychecks and the like. You get so on top of your business that FPD can look, and find not one thing to call them on.

That’s the place the Starline should have been in. So yes, they make mistakes, like checking Ids and permits, but when EVERYTHING is in the line, those aren’t mistakes you have the luxury of making.

Samantha says:

I was never a huge fan of the Starline, but I went to a few shows there, as well as Integration, and I think it’s terrible that the venue is being blamed for the accident, basically. That happens all the time, though. DNA Lounge in San Francisco constantly fights to stay open because they do all ages shows and serve alcohol.

As for myself, I’ll stick with CYC (Chinatown Youth Center). It’s a second home to me, and even they struggle with alcohol issues now and then. Other than that, CAFE Infoshop (around the corner from CYC on F Street) is a great space with good sound, and they’re in need of money to stay open, so book shows!

Stephen says:

Notes on the Bee story:

The story focused on venues that serve the underaged patrons with entertainment. I don’t believe Palomino’s catered to underagers. But FPD enforced the lack of dance permit (fine), but also is over-enforcing ‘no live music.’

I get that Starline the club has to be 21+ for awhile, but why does the restaurant next to it, although attached, have to be 21+ during dancing hours? And fine, even if that’s the case, can’t it be from set hours like 10-2am? What if Rogue is showing a play at the club at 5pm? Does that mean a nice family eating pizza next door has to leave?

The spirit of the needs for CUPs should be enforced. Make certain there’s enough security, the security is FPD approved, and there’s absolutely no minor drinking, outside drinks, or people drinking in the attached parking lot. Good!

But shutting down live music for dinner crowds at Palominos? Blah.

Making Starline Grill the only 21+ restaurant in town just because there’s a Pecha Kucha event next door?

I hope the owner and the FPD come to a common sense, reasonable conclusion that meets the safety needs of the community but also serves the normal desires of Fresno patrons.

I hope.

PS–Rick Mirigian can go spit. Don’t tell me he didn’t start this whole thing…because he IS the one who contacted the media members and FPD. What a whiny low-class move on his part. Very middle school.

Mike Oz says:

I talked about most of these issues in what I wrote, they got cut from the story. Such is the life, I suppose. I’m gonna write another blog post though that will include some of the stuff cut from the story.

megabear says:

The wristband means YOU CAN’T DRINK!

Alison says:

I said the same exact thing when this orignially got brought up. We should be allowed to drink and learn how it will affect us and to use it responsibly before we learn how to drive and are able to handle dangerous weapons – and if we are expected to die for our country should be allowed a drink at the end of the day.
Also, if we do pretty much anything else at 18 (an adult in the eyes of the law) we are heald responsible for our actions. Why is this situation any different?

Alison says:

You guys have the doors that go between the grill and the club locked during shows anyway so there is no way a kid could sneak in from the grill into the adjoining club. Very stupid. I can even uderstand no underage on the patio after maybe 10 or so, Livingstones started doing that, Inside the restaurant though? Lame.

Alison says:

This was supposed to a comment to Stephen’s above post… don’t know what happened.



Ok so here is my thought on a good compromise Steve or Mike (whoever is taking care of this) should try to make with the city. Make the Grill 21+ starting at like 9 and have the venue side serve no alcohol, just soda and water. That way during shows the 21 and over crowd can grab a drink at grill they can still have their all ages appeal and they won’t need to worry about underagers sneaking drinks by.

Ben - Republik says:

For years, The Starline Venue was a safe alternative that kept people of all ages inside and off the streets for a few hours each night. For many in the underage bracket, it was like a second home, given Fresno’s propensity for limiting options and shuffling kids from one side of the city to the next in search of somewhere to hang out. A few dollars got them in the door and- with the exception of the available 21+ bar- these kids were allowed the same experience as we are, free to have a good time and blow off some steam.

When you ask someone who’s lived here for a while to name some all-ages venues around town, the list is usually short and the names will vary depending on what’s still open and what’s changed hands. But whether they’ve been there or not, almost everyone will name The Starline. It’s been the one venue that seems to have weathered the “permit” storms and a declining economy to provide a safe haven where the younger crowd were still greeted with open arms.

No more. Thanks to the rash assumptions made by our city officials and the FPD, The Starline has been scapegoated and made to take the fall for situations clearly beyond its control. And I know there are concerns surrounding the Conditional Use Permits; I’m not talking about that. Apparently the girls involved in the Greyhound accident were “last seen” at The Starline earlier in the night? So the implication is that these underage girls were drinking at The Starline, subsequently leaving and got involved in an accident?

Well they definitely got into accident.. and that’s the only thing we know for sure that happened that night.

Listen, I’ve been going to The Starline for years as both a performer and a spectator. Every single time I walk through the door, I’m carded.. and the door staff knows I’m almost thirty (if not, they know I’m well in the clear to drink if I want to). And on numerous occasions, I’ve been carded AT THE BAR, just as a precautionary measure on the staff’s part. It’s not because they think I’m lying about my age; it’s their job, plain and simple.

Asking me to believe that these girls were drinking IN The Starline before that accident is like asking me to believe in the Easter Bunny. I’ve seen The Starline at max capacity, tons of people, lots of movement, energy and- you’d assume- plenty of chances for underage kids to sneak a drink. Only thing is, the security is always on top of this. They make their presence known in the crowds and hold no reservations in preventing or correcting any issues that arise. It’s part of their responsibilty and they don’t deviate. Not ever. And this happened on a Thursday night, with 12 security guards on duty.. 12!

You can’t even take ANY drinks past the hallway leading to the bathrooms, which is a great decision to further prevent alcohol falling into the wrong hands.

I believe whole-heartedly these girls got their alcohol from somewhere else. It’s underage drinking and any alternative way for them to obtain alcohol is still against the law. Given The Starline’s standing in the community though and the level of enthusiasm that people show towards it being one of few remaining all-ages venues, it’s extremely difficult to imagine that they wouldn’t try to protect that reputation at all costs.

So, while it remains a source of debate, I don’t believe The Starline had anything to do with these girls being intoxicated. This only part of the issue though and not my main point for writing this.

To our city’s officials: Now that you’ve pushed the youth out of the Starline and onto the streets, where would you have them go? Permit issues or not, this place is a thousand times safer than any street corner or back alley they may end up on (Remember, the city is cutting down on power usage by turning off streetlights and “blacking out” different neighborhoods every night). There are a select few other all-ages places around town, but none with the draw and cult status of The Starline. It’s fair to assume that every kid has the best intentions and doesn’t always go looking for trouble. Limit their safe options and leave them to their own devices though and I can guarantee they will find trouble in some form eventually, if it doesn’t find them first.

The city neglects to stay on top of these Conditional Use Permits and then something like this happens, causing officials to scapegoat an all ages place like the Starline as the problem, with little to no evidence to back it up. They try to downplay their negligence by magnifying this particular incident which, by the way, is neither the first nor the last alcohol related accident involving underage motorists. But because of the implications and subsequent scrutiny they’ll no doubt receive, city officials quickly jump into action, making hasty decisions and punishing an entire demographic unecessarily.

BTW, can we fire the person who decided you need a permit to dance?!

Charlie says:

When a complaint is received, the PD is required to investigate. If the business is not in compliance with the City CUP and/or ABC conditions a notice is sent by the PD advising of the conditions being violated. PD offers to meet with the business in order to assist in meeting compliance.

PD doesn’t make the rules, however, is it charged with enforcement. It only makes recommendations with standard set conditions based upon the type of business. However, the standard conditions only became effective 2009ish, so some of the older conditions are based upon the outdated CUP rules.

The rules are voted on and accepted by the City Council. It is then the responsibility of the Plannint Department to make sure each CUP meets the requirements. The Planning Commission then votes on whether or not the CUP will be approved.

It is important for people to be aware that some of these conditions are put in place by ABC, i.e., when alcohol can be served and what age group can be on the premises. The City cannot issue a CUP that would violate California’s ABC laws.

So, if you want to get things changed you should include the State of California in the process.

Thor says:

A lot of people were effectively screwed by this change. No one has really said it, but I’ll go ahead and say it. Why don’t we talk less about the venue *maybe* being at fault, and more the girls, who decided to drive drunk and how irresponsible they were.

This society keeps moving towards a system that punishes entities, businesses and whatever else and away from things like personal responsibility and accountability for your own actions. Even if they were served alcohol at the starline, were they using fake IDs? If they were using fake IDs how would an establishment be at all responsible for being duped?

Not that it matters much, because the real issue is that some morons got loaded and got out on the road and killed some people. But I’ve been going to the starline for a few years now. I’m six and a half feet tall, have a great bushy beard, and they’ve carded me each and every time I went into the place.