Change in downtown culture

BY IAN FRIEDMAN | JULY 19, 2012 6:30 AM

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Four years hardly seems like an appreciable amount of time to observe a trend. In a college town though, four years is comparable with the coming and going of four separate and distinct generations.

It is hard to imagine how much Iowa City has changed in the last four years. The downtown, needless to say, is one of the more apparent indicators that things have changed and are continuing to change with the times.

Since the introduction of the 21-ordinance, several bars have gone out of business (One-Eyed Jake's, 808, Et Cetera, etc.). This has allowed for other commercial vendors to come in and set up shop in the shadows of a once-prolific bar scene.

Despite these changes, these new businesses and new managements are changing the student-city relationship by providing a much-needed shift from a binge-drinking culture to one focused more on safer alternatives.

Some of the bars that have remained have undergone new ownership or management and now face the challenge of staying in business.

One such business, the Airliner, has been an Iowa City staple since 1944. Since a change in management at the beginning of this summer, the company is looking to improve.

"Tuesdays are a big night for the Airliner with half-price pizza," said managers Woody and Danielle in a joint statement. "We recently purchased a new pizza oven that can cook a pizza in less than five minutes. This improvement has already shown tremendous results in customer satisfaction."

From January through June, the Iowa City police have bar checked the Airliner 21 times, according to the monthly Bar Check Report. Out of these visits, only one PAULA citation was handed out.

When asked how they saw their relationship with the city and the university, the managers said, "The city and university have a responsibility to consider the safety of their students and residents. As a result, many regulations put weight on bars in Iowa City. We keep many door guys on to ensure the safety of the customers in the bar and work toward a similar goal as the city and university."

Newcomer on the block Yotopia, the self-serve frozen yogurt shop on South Clinton Street, has adopted a similar method.

"[Yotopia] tends to get pretty rowdy on weekend nights during the school year, so I hired a friend of mine to be our doorman," owner Veronica Tessler wrote in an email to the DI. "He's just there to keep the peace and make sure people entering the store are in a decent enough state so that all customers can enjoy their time."

Tessler said Yotopia's customer base includes students and locals, and the establishment values its relationship with both groups.

Yotopia represents the change from the Iowa City bar culture.

Since 2008, the number of PAULAs given out by the police has dropped from 879 to 538 in 2011. For 2012, that number has decreased to 74 as of June.

Not only that though, public-intoxication arrests have diminished from 1,231 in 2008 to 979 in 2011. As of June, the number is at 420 for 2012.

All of this despite the Princeton Review's ranking of the University of Iowa as the No. 4 party school in the nation for 2012, up from the No. 9 spot in 2011.

Iowa City certainly is the central hub for a lot of activity. The university and the town have such distinct characteristics, but it finally seems as if they're starting to mesh together in a more beneficial way for students and community members.

It almost makes me wonder what the next four years are going to bring, but then I remember that I still have to get through one more.

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