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SoBar mulls future after 21-ordinance

BY MORGAN OLSEN | APRIL 13, 2010 7:30 AM

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While Iowa City bars prepare to go 21-only by summer, Students Organizing for Better Alcohol Responsibility plans to make some changes to prepare for next semester.

SoBar, a group of University of Iowa students that emphasizes responsible drinking, has hosted three events at downtown bars this semester.

Now, the members have put together a constitution and hope to be recognized as an official UI student organization. On Wednesday, group leaders will sit down with Office of Student Life officials to discuss the group’s future.

“The biggest thing we want to emphasize in the constitution is that we’re not against alcohol,” said SoBar President Greg Pelc. “We’re about finding a balance of moderation and responsibility.”

But the new downtown regulations, which will prohibit those under 21 from being in bars after 10 p.m., could derail some efforts.

“The 21-ordinance is kind of a bummer,” said SoBar attendee and UI sophomore Sarah Kosch. “We have a group of people who are promoting drinking responsibly, and now we can’t go downtown.”

How UI officials will handle hosting alcohol-related events will be a challenge in the coming weeks.
In a Feb. 1 guest opinion in The Daily Iowan shortly after SoBar’s first event, Tom Rocklin, the UI interim vice president for Student Services, applauded the group.

“The SoBar experience demonstrates something that I have always known — many students know how to have a good time while drinking responsibly or not drinking at all,” he wrote.

Rocklin also wrote he didn’t oppose alcohol consumption by student groups when done in a responsible and legal manner, and he wrote in an e-mail Monday that other similar groups could be approved.

Some speculated having events with alcohol under the supervision of the student group could help Iowa City’s reputation.

“I think it would fit well on campus, especially being Iowa City, we’re known for being a party school,” said UI sophomore Sarah Ryan, who attended her first SoBar event last weekend. “It takes a lot of the pressure off drinking when you’re downtown, and that’s relaxing.”

With the new ordinance, group leaders will make changes.

The group will also have to look into new venues to host their parties, which, according to those who attend, are known for their fun on the dance floor.

The IMU could be an option for larger events, and Pelc said he has also considered merging with other student organizations to host parties.

“We could be present at other events when it would be appropriate to have some alcohol served,” he said. “We could provide the alcohol in a safe and responsible way.”

H wasn’t sure how university funding would be handled for alcohol-related events, he said, though he noted the UI funded a UI Student Government-sponsored tailgate.

With a new market of students after the ordinance takes effect on June 1, Pelc said, he hopes to gain the interest of people who want to have fun without drinking, or while drinking in moderation.

“Next semester, we’re really going to try to get freshmen involved,” he said. “We want to get them engaged right away and [allow them] to see a group of people who are drinking responsibly and having a good time.”

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