SAN MARCOS — “Save the Turtle” was painted on cardboard signs held by supporters of the community music hub The Jumping Turtle, as they stood on the corner of San Marcos Boulevard and Rancheros Drive on June 4. The group of parents, band students and area residents held signs that opposed new permit restrictions that no longer allow musician under age 21 perform or attend music nights at the restaurant.
“I’m a musician trying to get my name out,” 16-year-old Tyler Brent of Vista said. “The Jumping Turtle is one of those rare places to play. A lot of friends played there.”
“I bring my daughter to The Jumping Turtle all the time,” Mickey Ratty, father of 9-year-old Indie, said. Ratty said he likes the restaurant’s all-ages atmosphere where he can listen to music with his family, have something to eat and enjoy a beer.
The new permit agreement restricts the restaurant that has hosted all-ages music nights for six years, to having two nights of live music a week beginning July 1, and bans patrons and musicians under the age of 21 from entrance when there is entertainment and alcohol.
Restaurant owner Matt Hall just wants things back the way they were.
The new age restriction undermines the strong community connection the restaurant has established with local youth bands according to Joe Troutman, The Jumping Turtle’s entertainment manager. Troutman regularly speaks to student musicians at Paul Green School of Rock in Vista, Children’s Conservatory for Music Arts in San Marcos, and McMillan Music School in San Diego about the business end of being a professional musician. Troutman also brings in guest speakers from nationally known bands to work with students and give them insight into the industry.
The results are student-formed bands and music night performances. “The Jumping Turtle kind of acts as the climax to the class,” Troutman said. “Their final performances are done on our stage. We treat them as well as any major band, and give them proper sound and lighting. It’s a real treat to see the kids be absolutely petrified when they take their first step on stage, and then literally less than a minute later, they are thriving on the thrill and adrenaline of a receptive and supportive audience of family, friends, and patrons who enjoy the shows.”
Troutman also arranges for young musicians to sit in and play with established bands. “Losing this outlet for the youth is what is distressing me the most,” Troutman said. “If we stay 21 and over, we as a community will be losing a gem of a venue.”
Young musicians are strongly protesting the new permit conditions that leave them out. The band AXXYS organized the June 4 protest and stood with others in support of The Jumping Turtle between getting dismissed from school and band practice. “They won’t let kids in. It’s sad,” Kimberly Tyler of Escondido said of The Jumping Turtle’s new age restrictions. “They’re going to band practice, but don’t have a venue to play at.”
Musicians that now have paying gigs remember getting their start at The Jumping Turtle.
“This is where everybody comes,” Darin Kirshner, musician with Lord of War, said. “Little kids can get their start. This place is the spark before the fire.”
Kirshner performed with Lord of War at The Jumping Turtle on May 29, and was very cognizant of the smaller than average crowd. “Tonight is dead,” Kirshner said. “Most of our fans are under 21. They (The Jumping Turtle) wouldn’t survive without young people.”
While Kirshner performed with his heavy metal group Lord of War, his mom snapped pictures of the band. “She hates the music, but knows there’s something in my heart,” Kirshner said.
Recent articles printed in the San Diego Weekly Reader and North County Times that reported on an isolated incident at the restaurant and included reports of underage drinking have made things difficult for Hall, who is in the process of asking the city to lift some of the new permit restrictions.
Sheriff Sgt. Glenn Giannantonio confirmed there have been 137 incidents at the Jumping Turtle over the past two years. Giannantonio said that while the incident count includes 25 fights and 35 incidents involving people under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it also includes the alarm being triggered and bar checks.
Giannantonio said the Sheriff’s Department is trying to standardized recommendations for all establishments. “Our concern is that there are minors mixed in with people over 21 whether or not food is being served,” Giannantonio said.
An online petition posted at www.petitiononline.com/Turtle asks for community signatures to support all-ages music nights at The Jumping Turtle restaurant, located at 1660 Capalina Road.
The petition has already gained more than 1,700 signatures.