Group petitions to make bars 18 and older


David Scrivner/The Daily Iowan
UI freshman Anna Zoerner signs a petition in favor for an 18-ordinance from Union employee Conor Fudge on the Ped Mall on Tuesday.
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Some opponents of the newly resurrected 21-ordinance aren’t just interested in keeping the status quo for bar-entry age. They think 18-year-olds should be allowed in, too.

Tom Lenoch, an Iowa City bar manager, and UI junior Dan Tallon filed an initiative with the City Council Monday proposing downtown bars be allowed to admit 18-year-olds after 10 p.m.

“My hope is that this provides an opportunity to work with the City Council and find a happy medium,” said Lenoch, a lifelong Iowa City resident.

Lenoch, the general manager at Jakes, Summit, and Vito’s, said he and other bar owners aren’t looking to allow 18-year-olds in the bar, they simply want to prevent the council from rushing to pass the 21-ordinance.

Despite the new proposal, city officials say the 21-ordinance will still be on the March 23 meeting agenda.

Filing will not prevent the council from acting on the 21-ordinance, said City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes.

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The initiative is a petition that must first collect 2,500 signatures before May 7. All 2,500 people who sign the petition must be registered voters in Johnson County, said City Clerk Marian Karr.

Once the signatures have been submitted, Karr will verify them, and the proposal will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot, Dilkes wrote Tuesday in a memorandum to the council.

“If it goes on the ballot in November, and people are in favor of it, it could change to 18,” Dilkes said.

But whether voters will try to change the bar entry age from 19 to 18 or 21 to 18 will be determined by the council’s actions in coming months.

As of 9 p.m. Tuesday night, bar employees, managers, and students had collected around 500 signatures. Lenoch says the group plans on submitting the signatures before the council’s March 23 meeting.

Tallon, who ran for City Council in November 2009, is leading the petition in hopes to give the public another chance to voice their opinion.

“The public voted it down before,” Tallon said. “If it’s going to be voted back in, it should be voted by the people.”

While some councilors recognize their opponents’ view, this initiative does not change their stance on the issue.

“They have the right if they get the 2,500 signatures,” said Councilor Terry Dickens.

Dickens, who supports the 21-ordinance, is worried about the pace of the council’s actions. The council has expressed interest in implementing the ordinance this semester.

“It’s moving a little fast,” he said.

However, other councilors are not sympathizing.

Councilor Mike Wright said bars had a chance to change the ways in which they monitored underage drinkers after the 2007 election.

“There are some bar owners who have done a good job,” he said. “And others who don’t give a damn about the law.”

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