Los Angeles cracks down on game cafes

City Council restricts minors' access to an eight-and-a-half hour cybercafe window with a tough curfew.

Like a steaming cup of fraggin' with your morning latte? If you live in Los Angeles and are under 18, you'll soon be out of luck. Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance to restrict minors' access to Internet cafes in general--and to game parlors in particular.

According to the LA Daily News, the ordinance affects "cybercafes," or any establishment that "provides five or more computers with Internet access." The council identified 30 cybercafes, LAN parlors, and Korean-style "PC Baangs" as falling under the ordinance, most of which are located in the San Fernando Valley.

To even open their doors legally, owners of affected businesses will first have to obtain a permit from the police. To get a permit, the businesses will have to comply with a series of new rules, including guaranteeing that at least one 18-year-old employee will be on duty at any given time. Cybercafes will also only be able to have a maximum of one computer per 20 feet of floor space, and some will be required to both construct separate waiting areas and install video cameras.

The most important rule cybercafes will have to follow to continue operating will be enforcing a 15-and-a-half-hour curfew. Visitors under 18 will be banned from the premises from 8:30am to 1:30pm and from 10:00pm to 8:30am. Similar to the cigarette and liquor laws targeted at minors, patrons of cybercafes will have to present identification to prove their ages upon request.

The drive to regulate cybercafes began in 2002 after several violent incidents occurred in and around Los Angeles, including two murders. This particular round of rules was first proposed by Councilman Dennis Zine following a December 2002 brawl in Northridge between two rival Counter-Strike clans. Zine also said truancy was a motivator, citing a report that found that 93 percent of the arrests made at cybercafes were of minors who were breaking curfew or skipping school.

Zine told the Daily News that he was pleased with the outcome. "I don't want to end up like Orange County, where a number of murders and other serious crimes took place," he said. "We wanted to be ahead of the curve--proactive--and put in some regulations. We learned that there were virtually no regulations on the cybercafe industry."

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