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IC sees earlier drinking, bars close

BY ARIANA WITT | DECEMBER 06, 2010 7:20 AM

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Dressed in a red, green and gold holiday sweater, Peter Simon waited in a line of roughly 15 outside the Summit, 10 S. Clinton St., eager to attend the bar's Friday after class Christmas-themed event.

Laughing with two of his friends, the University of Iowa freshman said he'd been out since 4 p.m. and comes out so early because "he doesn't really have a choice."

"I don't think the [21]-ordinance has stopped people from going out," Simon said. "But I hear the [Pedestrian Mall] used to be crazy, and now it's really not."

Officials, bar owners, and students agree downtown has changed since the 21-ordinance went into effect June 1. But the changes have become more pronounced in the last month since the Nov. 2 election.

On Nov. 27, the same night Hawkeye football fans suffered through a loss to Minnesota, 808 Restaurant & Night Club closed its doors, said UI junior Grant Uding, a former doorman and bar back for the business.

And One-Eyed Jakes, 18-20 S. Clinton St., is officially closed today, said manager Tom Lenoch.

"I think it's a shame quite frankly that the community turned its back on small businesses, and a lot of people lost jobs as a result," Uding said, who had worked at 808, 121 Iowa Ave., for eight months.

Police citations, people staggering while attempting to walk, and vomiting are still occurring on the downtown Iowa City scene. But now they're occurring before 10 p.m. In front of Summit, women in reindeer ears and high-heels stood in line at 8:45 p.m. Around 9 p.m., on the Pedestrian Mall, a crowd stood in line in front of Union while a man vomited on the brick walkway in front of Brothers.

On Dec. 4, more than 100 people crowded into Jake's after 10 p.m. to celebrate the bar's last party.

The changes experienced in the last month are comparable to a business model, said City Councilor Regenia Bailey. She said the bars had two choices following the 52 to 48 percent vote: "Stop operating in the changing environment, or change their business model."

She noted it's likely impossible for bars to survive without changing.

And some clubs have heeded the advice. The Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., and the Yacht Club, 13 S. Linn St., have adopted the entertainment-venue ordinance, allowing patrons under 21 in the establishment past 10 p.m. Other establishments, such as Airliner, have exemptions to the ordinance because they sell more food than alcohol.

Though bar-goers filled downtown before 10 p.m. this past weekend, city officials said it is too early in the process to think about the potential problems that might arise from earlier drinking.

"In terms of more restriction, we're at a point now where we need to let things sit for a while before doing anything further," said City Councilor Susan Mims.

Tom Rocklin, the UI vice president for Student Services, said he hasn't heard of any problems because of the earlier bar hours, and he doesn't know what strategies could be used to counter drinking that may occur before 10 p.m.

"The goal was to limit access [to alcohol]," said Iowa City police Lt. Mike Brotherton. "We didn't say we were going to change drinking behavior to the point that everyone stopped drinking."

Brotherton said Iowa City police have had run-ins with underage people in the bars past the 10 p.m. deadline. Though he said he can't think of why anyone would risk paying the more than $700 fine, he said he cited two women at Firewater, 347 S. Gilbert St., on the evening of Dec. 3.

But Brotherton said overall, things are quieter now and he's noticed that assaults are down.

Police also said the attraction of Iowa City to non-locals has decreased.

"The area is in a state of change right now," Brotherton said. "We're seeing fewer people downtown and fewer from out of town. It's not the destination spot it used to be."


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