What’s next for the 21 ordinance debate?


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Two years. That’s how long the 21-ordinance will be in place. At the very least.

And in that time, no one can touch it — not city councilors, not students, not residents.

According to the city code, once an ordinance is voted on by the public, it can’t be brought up by the council or by referendum for at least two years.

Tuesday night Iowa City voted “No” to keep the 5-month-old 21-ordinance.

“I’m most exited about the chance we have given this ordinance to succeed. And in five months we’ve seen it has succeeded,” said Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek. “We know we are safer. This is a good thing for Iowa City.”

City and university officials said they’ll keep doing what they’ve been doing since June while they wait to see the long-term effects of the relatively recent regulation.

“I think we would wait and see how the ordinance continues to play out,” Hayek said. “The first five months have shown us that it has resulted in many benefits to the community.”

City councilors say they will continue to watch the effects of the ordinance before implementing any other measures to control Iowa City’s drinking environment.

Iowa City police officials said the department was prepared to return to patrolling downtown as they did before the 21-ordinance went into effect, and they will continue with the party patrol as needed.

Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine said he plans to keep the party patrol in place throughout the year during “peak” partying times, and the force will continue to monitor downtown by adding more officers Thursday through Saturday evenings.

Tom Rocklin, the University of Iowa vice president for Student Services, said the UI’s plans for combating alcohol issues did not hinge on the vote, but the vote upholding the 21-ordinance will allow the university’s plans to be more effective.

Although no official plans have been made regarding nighttime activities, he said, if participation stays up, the UI will try continue to host them, and funding for alternative activities will also depend on demand.

A comprehensive plan is set to be approved and released later this week in regards to alcohol consumption, he said.

Hayek said there is nothing on the council’s agenda to further address alcohol and binge-drinking issues.

However, he said, the City Council will continue to partner with the University of Iowa, county, private sector, and Partnership for Alcohol Safety to address alcohol issues in the community even though the ordinance was not overturned.

“You have to look at this particular ordinance against the backdrop of other things going on,” he said, and the city has already addressed the issue of split-venue and entertainment-venue options.

Both will remain in place.

One expert said that while a new group of students may try for an appeal in the future, overturning the ordinance would be unlikely.

Toben F. Nelson, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota who has studied college binge drinking and state alcohol policies, said since the 21-ordinance passed, it would be unlikely for a new group of students to repeal it successfully.

“The argument for those under 21 trying to gain access to bars is a more difficult one to make if the ordinance is set at 21,” he said. “It raises the question of why those who can’t legally drink would want access to a place where the primary activity is drinking.”

DI reporter Nora Heaton contributed to this report.

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