Iowa City business owner named state Alcoholic Beverage Commission vice chair

BY KATIE HEINE | JUNE 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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An Iowa City man says he wants to use his statewide position to curb underage and binge drinking.

Next month, Jim Clayton will take over as vice chairman of Iowa’s Alcoholic Beverages Commission.

The body advises state officials on alcohol policy, including large-scale sales and licensing.

Clayton said the panel acts as a “counterbalance” to ask such questions as, “Is this really a good idea?”

“My objective is to make sure we don’t go down too many more slippery slopes,” he said.
Clayton is one of five members of the commission, all of whom are appointed by the governor.

Commissioners serve for five years. Only one of the members can have a direct tie to the alcohol industry.

Clayton, an Iowa City business-owner who has served on the commission since 2005, said his diverse, self-employed background is helpful to this position.

As a hotel owner, he said, he dealt with liquor licenses for the hotel’s bar and restaurant. He later sold marketing materials to the alcoholic beverage industry, and he has maintained a local business in downtown Iowa City for 30 years.

“I’m able to bring to the table a knowledge of what it is like to be in a highly alcohol-concentrated environment like what we have here in Iowa City,” he said.

As an advisory board to the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division administration, the commission holds public forums throughout the year to gather input on alcohol-realated issues, said Tonya Dusold, the division’s spokeswoman. Nuisance bars, native wineries, and high-proof alcohol products were some recently discussed items, she said.

And the division has plenty of effect on Iowa City.

For instance, in 2009, then-Iowa City bar owner Mike Porter appealed to the commission after a slew of PAULAs resulted in the Iowa City City Council’s denying the renewal of his liquor licenses.

Porter filed a lawsuit against Iowa City, but it was the commission’s responsibility to determine if Porter displayed “good moral character,” a requirement for holding a liquor license under Iowa law.

“Some people look at [the commission] as a burden, but I see it as a service,” said the commision chairman-appointee Greg Nashleanas, the general manager at L & L Distributing Co., a Sioux City-based beer distributor. “I love giving back.”

Despite meager compensation — commission members only make $50 per meeting, plus transportation costs — Clayton said he’s motivated by the potential problems of bad alcohol policy — higher divorce rates and accidental deaths, for instance.

“It becomes a community issue,” he said. “If we don’t have a strong community and a healthy place for people to live, we all suffer.”

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