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Summit goes 20, Airliner goes 21

BY JULIANA FABIANO | JUNE 06, 2011 7:20 AM

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Underage students may need to seek out a new downtown venue for fall.

A year after Iowa City’s 21-ordinance went into effect, preventing people under the legal drinking age from being in bars after 10 p.m., several local business owners have decided to change their entry ages.

The Summit

The Summit Restaurant & Bar, 10 S. Clinton St., at present accepts patrons ages 20 and up after 10 p.m.

The change from 21 to 20 comes after the City Council approved a new liquor license for the restaurant under a new owner — Christopher “Topher” Wanek — on May 3.

Because of the ownership change, Iowa City City Clerk Marian Karr said, the Summit is considered a new establishment, which allows it to have an exemption to the 21-ordinance for six months.

After that time, Karr said Wanek will be required to turn in an application to renew the Summit’s exemption showing its food and alcoholic beverage sales for the first six months. If the Summit’s alcohol sales do not outweigh food sales, the exemption would then be renewed on a yearly basis.

Under previous ownership of Mike Porter, the council had denied the Summit the exemption because of the high number of PAULA violations.

The 22-year-old Des Moines businessman said he hopes to avoid such issues by bulking up security to manage the underage crowd by purchasing an identification scanner and hiring more security.

“By purchasing [the ID scanner], it shows we don’t want underage kids using fake IDs to get into the bar,” Wanek said. “If an underage crowd is going to be there, we don’t want them drinking.”

He also said he is retraining his security staff to better monitor underage drinkers, and he plans to distribute wristbands in preparation for University of Iowa students’ return in fall.

“We’re using this time to make the improvements we need so when the fall comes, we’re ready,” he said.

The Airliner

Jim Rinella, the owner of the Airliner Bar and Restaurant, 22 S. Clinton St., has adjusted his establishment’s entry age from 19 to 21.

While he said his business was fortunate to have a food exemption, he said the establishment regrettably lost a number of doormen who were very good at following the protocol of the city in recent months.

“Until I am confident in my younger staff to follow the rules, I don’t plan on letting any underage violators in,” he said.  

And while Rinella reserved his right to change the entry age back at any time, he said, he won’t do so until he feels his new staff is prepared and trained to check IDs appropriately and ensure that drinks are only served to of-age patrons.

“I decided to make admittance 21-only because I didn’t want to have the risk of an underage crowd coming into the Airliner and breaking the law,” he said.

Rinella, whose family-owned business was passed down from his grandfather, said he made the change because of the respect he has for the community surrounding the University of Iowa.

“Our No. 1 concern is to partner with police and work with the City Council to be responsible,” he said Sunday. “And as a business owner, I take it very seriously.”


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