Iowa City bars to remain 21-only after close race


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It’s 21.

As of around 10:30 p.m. in the Iowa City area, the highly debated 21-ordinance was upheld, winning approximately 52 percent of the Johnson County vote.

Students, 21-organizations, and downtown bars were all quick to express their mixed reactions.

“I guess I’m looking for a new job tomorrow,” said Tom Lenoch, the manager of One-Eyed Jakes, 18-20 S. Clinton St.

As the results trickled in, bar owners, employees, and community members rubbed their eyes, revealing noticeable bags. They stared at TV screens in a blocked-off section of the Sports Column, 12 S. Dubuque St. Silence eventually filled the bar; blaring music could be heard from Dubuque Street just two hours earlier.

Meanwhile, at least 40 cheers erupted in Bob’s Your Uncle, 2208 North Dodge St., on Tuesday. But six players remained long after the revelries had subsided, gathered in a small circle, heads bowed together. The core, the heart and soul of 21 Makes Sense was enjoying a round of long overdue victory beers.

“I keep glancing at the TV thinking, ‘Will something change?’ ” Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek said while Rocklin turned to order him a Boulevard.

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Hayek said he didn’t sleep last night but seeing their hard work pay off is “extremely gratifying.”

“This was a victory for the entire community,” he said. “This is not the end of the road, and this is only one piece of the puzzle. More needs to be done. More will be done.”

Leah Cohen, the owner of Bo-James, 118 East Washington St., and co-chairwoman of anti-21 group Iowa City Safety Committee, along with everyone in attendance, hugged and consoled each other.

“Tomorrow, we pick up the pieces,” Cohen said. “It’s going to be a very different community from what we have right now.”

Iowa City will be a “different landscape” by mid-January, she said.

Cohen said she thinks a number of downtown bars will close.

Lenoch said Jakes is likely “to call it quits,” given the results and that he thinks selling the bar to the University of Iowa might be the next step.

Some UI students screamed profanities behind the closed doors of their dorm rooms upon learning the final vote.

Pre-law students in Hillcrest watched anxiously as the “Yes” vote slipped away. Some watched the TV, but others, like UI freshman Jack Krejci watched in anticipation as updates trickled in from the auditor’s website.

But after the decision went final, Krejci held his head in his hands and sighed.

“How the [expletive] did that win?” he said.

At a watch party across campus, UI sophomore Julia Radasevich and two friends were less than impressed by the “No” victory.

“I’m not surprised,” said Radasevich, who watched the results come in at Burge with two friends. “Bummed but not surprised.”

UI officials issued a statement following Tuesday night’s vote, saying they feel the support showed commitment to a safer downtown.

“We need to move forward as a community,” Cohen said. “We’ve been stagnant since March. We need to join hands and move forward as a community.”

Outside the Sports Column, on a nearly desolate sidewalk, a spokesman for the anti-21 group Yes to Entertaining Students Safely Matt Pfaltzgraf said the group didn’t have the resources to reach all the voters it needed to.

The City Council proposed the ordinance for a second time this year. It was previously overturned with a “No” vote Nov. 6, 2007. After passing three council votes this year, the ordinance — which states Iowa City bars cannot allow people under the age of 21 in their establishments after 10 p.m. — took effect June 1.

Lenoch said he was disappointed in the voter turnout, given the record size of the University of Iowa’s incoming class.

“There’s not even 1,500 votes, but 1,404,” he said referring to the number of votes that the anti-21 side lost by. “That’s not even a tenth of students.”

One student at the Hillcrest watch party threatened to transfer schools due to the results.

“Who’s going to the Airliner?” asked freshman Kevin Lingle to the room of about nine UI students. “I’ve got to sulk.”

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