City Council: No liquor-license renewal for Etc., Fieldhouse

BY NICOLE KARLIS | JULY 29, 2009 7:15 AM

On Tuesday night, two Iowa City bar owners fought for the survival of their businesses, but the Iowa City city councilors displayed little sympathy.

They denied a liquor-license renewal for Et Cetera, 118 S. Dubuque St., by a 6-1 vote; 3rd Base Sports Bar, 111 E. College St., had its permit unanimously denied.

Before city councilors completed their motion on the bars, Iowa City Mayor Regenia Bailey took a hard line.

“It’s time for us to step up and be serious,” she said. “Enough is enough.”

City Councilor Matt Hayek did not support the motion to deny Et Cetera’s license. Because the underage drinking ticket per bar visit rate for Et Cetera has decreased in recent months, he felt the bar was doing a better job of monitoring underage drinking.

New guidelines for liquor-license renewal changed in February; Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine must recommend denying permits to establishments that rack up one PAULA ticket per police sweep, on average.

George Etre, the owner of Et Cetera, voiced a plea to the council: His bar would voluntarily enforce a 21-only entry age in order to reduce the number of underage drinking tickets.

But even with those efforts, he said, it would be almost impossible to completely keep minors from drinking in his bar.

Jeff Shipley, the UI student liaison to the City Council, spoke in support of Etre’s bar, citing business sense. With the city’s 500-foot ordinance, passed early June, downtown bars that lose their liquor licenses are likely unable to reopen next year.

“A piece of real estate just sitting there would be more damaging to the city,” Shipley said.

After discussions among city councilors and Et Cetera supporters, the 3rd Base was next.

The 3rd Base’s legal team noted the bouncers have confiscated 2,700 fake IDs in recent years. The establishment even uses an incentive system in which employees are rewarded $5 for each ID they take.

One UI student testified about the bar’s strict age enforcement; he said he once had his real ID copped because he had lost weight and didn’t look like his photo anymore.

City councilors were not impressed; not one voted to renew the bar’s liquor license.

Now, the bars can take their cases to the state Alcoholic Beverages Division, which makes the ultimate decision. It has rarely denied liquor-license renewals in the past, officials have said.

That’s why Etre is unsure if his bar will go 21-only.

Still, the council’s decisions have set an example for other popular taps. Bar owners will likely band together once again to attempt to face the council, Etre said.

Other bars may yet face the council as their yearly liquor licenses expire.

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