The Airliner reinstates 21-ordinance exemption


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The Airliner Bar and Restaurant reinstated its exemption to the 21-ordinance this past weekend, but patrons of the establishment will see changes in security and crowd management.

The Airliner, 22 S. Clinton St., originally had an exemption to the 21-ordinance because of its food sales. If a business’ food revenue is 50 percent or greater of its total revenue, the business is eligible for the exemption. The Airliner’s renewed exemption to the ordinance started Feb. 8.

The Airliner lost its exemption in May 2012 because of its high number of PAULAs.

Management at the Airliner now hopes to decrease the number of PAULAs with increased security at the door, decreasing the number of underage patrons in the bar at one time, checking IDs more often, and taking drinks away from underage patrons.

“It’s just going to be a safer environment,” said Airliner general manager Gabe Lynott. “If we’re safe and smart, we can keep the PAULAs low. It hurts us just as much as it hurts you.”

Owner Jim Rinella said because the Airliner is a sports restaurant, the exemption to the 21-ordinance is in everyone’s best interest.

“Some sporting events run late into the evening,” he said. “It is not advantageous to leave at 10 p.m. at the end of the game. Obviously, you want to have as much business as possible too. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The Airliner has been with the Rinella family since 1910, when Rinella’s great-grandfather bought the building, and Rinella’s grandfather started the business in 1944. Rinella and wife Sherry co-own the business today. Rinella said that because the business is so important to him, his first objective is to responsibly, legally, and ethically run the best business possible.

“We have no interest in skirting around the law,” he said. “We want to provide the best collegiate experience possible in a responsible manner.”

Since Feb. 4, there have been seven PAULAs recorded in Iowa City, including one at the Airliner on Feb. 8, according to the University of Iowa and Iowa City police arrest logs.

One employee at Joe’s Place, 115 Iowa Ave., said controlling the number of PAULAs depends upon how well a restaurant manages its patrons.

“Honestly, I was surprised that they didn’t already [control the number of underage patrons] with all the people involved,” said Brian Finnegan, bartender at Joe’s Place. “[PAULAs] aren’t that hard to control when you have responsible people doing their jobs responsibly.”

Rinella hopes to take the security at the Airliner a step further and possibly open the upstairs room to become an “alcohol-free” room in which patrons can still have refreshments and enjoy themselves. Rinella plans to ask sorority and fraternity members who frequent the Airliner to see what they think of the plan before renovating the room.

“If I provide a safe place it could be a beneficial thing for college students,” he said. “Most kids don’t go out until 11 o’clock at night. We’re looking at ways to create a safe environment. Letting underage college students upstairs satisfies a need to have a good college experience.”

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