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City and UI to continue teaming up against alcohol

BY HAYLEY BRUCE | DECEMBER 14, 2010 7:10 AM

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The night Iowa City voters upheld the 21-ordinance, city officials, university administrators, and bar owners had a similar message: They would continue to work together.

And though University of Iowa officials said they are acting alone in regards to the recently released Alcohol Harm Reduction plan, Tom Rocklin, the UI vice president for Students Services, and city officials said any collaboration will continue through the Partnership for Alcohol Safety.

"We're working very hard at trying to get everyone together to cooperate," said partnership member Marc Moen. "Like with everything else, when there is a change, it makes everyone re-evaluate, and there are a lot of positives that could come out of it."

The group — ranging from Iowa public health, city, and university officials to local bar owners — will meet Friday to discuss moving forward as a community, said Sarah Hansen, who serves on the partnership and works in the Office of the Vice President for Student Services.

Stephen Larson, the administrator of the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, will also attend the meeting to discuss potential collaborations between the Alcoholic Beverages Division and a campus-community partnership.

But while UI and city officials said they are open to working with business owners, Leah Cohen, the owner of Bo-James, 118 E. Washington St., said she no longer feels binge drinking is a bar issue.

"The bars are out of it now; students are out of the bars," she said. "So it's up to everyone else to see what further things are going to do."

Moen said the Partnership for Alcohol Safety is evaluating what to do next, including whether there are other people in the community who should be represented on the board. Although no specific plans are in place, he said, several people from the community have approached him with new ideas of how to fill downtown vacancies left from closing bars.

"It's a tough issue, but I've been working in the area for 30 years, and a lot more progress can be made by sitting down and working it out than fighting," Moen said.

Champion said the 21-ordinance could have been avoided if bar owners were cooperative to begin with, and, she noted, the council would be open to trying again if they were approached.

"I think there are things that can be done, and I think [bar owners] need to come up with some good ideas of how they can use their property to bring kids in there," she said. "We're always willing to talk with them. I don't want anyone to go out of business. It's sad."

But Cohen said the bars did try to work with city councilors and made several suggestions through the Alcohol Advisory Board prior to the ordinance. She said those ideas — including a cap on container sizes of alcoholic beverages and increased police presence — were ignored.

Since the vote, Champion said, no bar owners have approached the City Council and she does not think any more ordinances will be passed.

While Cohen said she can't represent other bars, she doesn't think they plan to speak up.

"From what I've heard from other bars, I don't think they even want to talk to the City Council," she said. "I've talked to a lot of angry bar owners, and they feel the city should be stepping forward with some other measures to help downtown."


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