Bars go for 21 exemption


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Several Iowa City music venues are in the process of applying for an entertainment-venue designation from the city, which would allow 19- and 20-year-olds to stay in their establishments until midnight on show nights.

However, bars have shown little interest in the split-venue option, a fact councilors and experts said isn't surprising.

The Iowa City City Council approved the entertainment-venue and split-venue ordinances on Oct. 26 to help foster the music scene, which many said would suffer with the 21-ordinance.

Some clubs have immediately taken advantage of the option.

"I think that the positive thing about it is the music," said Councilor Connie Champion. "That was a concern of a lot of people when we decided to go to 21 for the bars."

Sam Locke Ward, the co-booker of events for the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., said the club is in the process of applying for the designation, and he expects to easily meet the requirements.

For a bar to be designated as an "entertainment venue," it must host more than 150 shows each year and have fewer than one PAULA issued for every two police visits.

"We have way more shows than that," Locke Ward said. "That is like saying you are going to have a show every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday."

Josh Ivey, a manager of Blue Moose Tap House, 211 Iowa Ave., said the bar would likely apply, and Pete McCarthy, the manager of the Yacht Club, 13 S. Linn St., said his venue has received the designation.

There is far less interest in the split-venue designation — which requires physically separating alcohol and alcohol free areas — because it would require significant physical changes to a building, including separate entrances, bathrooms, and other spaces.

"You would be putting a lot of money into taking chances on being successful," Champion said. "I think it is going to be very difficult to do."

And some bar owners agree with Champion's assessment.

"I cannot imagine anyone will really be able to use it; to put in separate bathrooms would be pretty cost-prohibitive," said Leah Cohen, the owner of Bo-James, 118 E. Washington St. "I do not know of any bars in Iowa City that would do that."

Even if a business desired to change to a split-venue, some architects are skeptical that such a change is possible.

"Some of the buildings I have been in here in Iowa City, I do not think it could be done," said Jerry Burnes, an architect for Iowa City firm Burns and Burns. "Some buildings have one entrance into the building, and they are so narrow, it would be virtually impossible to get a second entrance into the building."

Some councilors said that while it is an unlikely option, it is still good to have it available.

"We knew going into it that only a small number of institutions we currently have would be able to take advantage of it," said Councilor Mike Wright. "It is still another option for the venues to have."

Locke Ward said the entertainment-venue option has eased his fears over getting major music acts to Iowa City.

"Shows will just have to end by midnight, and I do not think that is a completely unreasonable thing," he said. "It makes sense."

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