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Union Bar just safe with liquor license

BY NICOLE KARLIS | AUGUST 20, 2009 7:05 AM

The Union Bar was heading down the same path as fellow downtown bars Et Cetera and 3rd Base Sports Bar until a twist of fate last weekend.

The Union, 121 E. College St., would have been the third bar that police recommended be denied a liquor-license renewal at the Iowa City City Council meeting on Sept. 15. The council denied liquor-license renewals on July 28 for Et Cetera’s and 3rd Base’s, also informally known as the Fieldhouse, because they exceeded a ratio of more than one underage drinking ticket per police visit.

But after last weekend’s stings, when the Union didn’t recieve a single underage drinking ticket at Union, the bar is in the clear, said Iowa City police Sgt. Troy Kelsay.

The Union’s application for a liquor-license renewal on July 23 came when the establishment had a ratio of 1.013. The new guidelines — which went into effect July 1 — require Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine to recommend that the City Council deny the renewal of a liquor license if a bar exceeds a ratio of 1.00.

In a July 30 letter, Hargadine recommended denial, said City Clerk Marian Karr.

The owners of Union then saw how close they were to the safe zone and decided to withdraw their application on Aug. 7, Karr said.

The move bought Union some time to crack down on underage drinkers and hope for one last bar check with no PAULAs.

Police visits to Union last weekend resulted in no PAULAs and brought its ratio to a solid 1.00. On Monday, Union’s owners reapplied.

“They want to process now so they can pass,” Kelsay said. “They had the luxury to take a look at their numbers and monitor.”

Based on the bar’s newest numbers, police will likely recommend Union for a license renewal, he said.

A Union manager confirmed the ratio decrease but had no further comment on Wednesday.

An establishment is allowed to apply for its annual liquor-license renewal 70 days prior to its expiration date. If the application is withdrawn, it is removed from consideration by the council.

When the establishment reapplies, its numbers are then recalculated, Karr said.

But Kelsay said withdrawing and resubmitting can be a “gamble,” because future bar checks could raise the ratio.

Union is not the first bar to apply a second time. The owner of Et Cetera, the first bar to face the council, also reapplied, but his motives were not to curb the bar’s numbers.

“We were closed over the summer, so we wouldn’t have been able to do so,” said George Etre, the owner of Et Cetera. “We wanted to prepare our defense for the city.”

Summit, 10 S. Clinton St., is the next bar expected to face the council sometime in October, Kelsay said.

With a current ratio of 1.9, Kelsay said Summit’s management has some work to do before applying for license renewal.

Timing will be a key factor for bars owners who hope to follow in Union’s footsteps.

“Depending on how soon they applied, they could try it again and again,” Karr said.


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