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City councilors should leave the bars alone

BY JONATHAN GROVES - GUEST OPINION | DECEMBER 07, 2009 7:30 AM

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In regards to the editorial in the Nov. 30 Daily Iowan, I don’t think the average UI student or even the editorial writer grasps that the bars exist as businesses and not as a right for students. Bars can change their fees at any time: It is a business. I agree it is no fun to have to pay $10 to get into a bar, but I think the editorial is mistaken when it says bars should make their cover charges clearer. You are missing the point.

How much money are you willing to part with to enjoy the drinks or atmosphere at a bar at any given time? The price is obviously different for everyone.

The bars know they can charge for their atmosphere, and students should realize they aren’t being forced to pay to get in; you can just walk away if $10 cover is too steep (as it is for me many nights).

The atmosphere and “good experience” that you refer to is clearly dynamic over the course of any given night, and, thus, bars have the right to change their cover over the night. Requiring them to have a rate structure is like trying to mandate when a bar is supposed to become “fun.”

Also, keep in mind that a bar may have an exorbitant cover charge because it is near capacity at any given time of the night and wants to discourage people from entering. Bars obviously make most of their money off of beverage sales, and they know charging a student $10 reduces the likelihood that he or she will buy a lot inside the bar. Or it makes up for the bar being so busy you might not be able to get to the bar.

In regards to the cover-charge story on the same day (“Officials eye bars’ cover charges”), that certain politicians and bureaucrats are now trying to attack the bars through another method should be transparent to everyone. That Jim Clayton, who is a member of the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Commission, is concerned that no way exists to count the money from every transaction is ludicrous.

That the Iowa City City Council and its friends at the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Commission think they have the right or even the means to supervise every transaction of businesses raves of lunacy. That goes against any free-market principle that is important in this country.

The City Council and all its political allies should attack budget and development problems through different means: by cutting expenditures and pet projects rather than by hurting small businesses — which are the only businesses that will occupy space in downtown Iowa City. The City Council should follow the letter of law rather than all this wheeling and dealing.

From the DI story, clearly bar owners report their income from cover charges at their own risk. They are big enough businesses to have targets painted on them by state and federal tax authorities, so they know the risk associated within not reporting income. The city of Iowa City has no business trying to figure out if these businesses are reporting their incomes properly.

Jonathan Groves is a UI senior.


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