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Iowa City City Council eliminates midnight curfew for entertainment venues

BY NICK HASSETT | FEBRUARY 20, 2013 5:00 AM

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It’s official: 19- and 20-year-olds in Iowa City will now be able to see shows after midnight without fears of being  ticketed by police.

The Iowa City City Council unanimously approved the final reading of the ordinance, passing and adopting it into law.

In approving the measure, councilors expressed their support for local venues and stressed that this measure didn’t mean the council wasn’t concerned about alcohol issues.

“A lot of members of the community are concerned and think we’re deconstructing the 21-ordinance,” Councilor Rick Dobyns said. “But providing nonalcoholic opportunities for students isn’t just rewarding the good guys, we’re still trying to punish the bad guys who don’t quite keep up with alcohol enforcement. Nobody likes police in their bars.”

Local entertainment venues have worked with the city to develop the ordinance, and one general manager of two venues thinks the changes are good for the city.

“It definitely hurt everyone’s business, bars and venues,” said Pete McCarthy, the general manager of Gabe’s and the Yacht Club, referring to the previous ordinance. “But we are offering more than just a place to drink — we’re offering entertainment.”

McCarthy said the previous ordinance made underage venue-goers more reluctant to go see shows.
“Sometimes the headlining band won’t go on stage until 11:30, and kids are afraid of getting tickets,” he said. “It was unfair to the music scene, and I think the council knew that.”

However, McCarthy thought the changes wouldn’t have an immediate effect.

“It took awhile for people to stop going to shows [after the previous ordinance was passed],” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll see automatic turnaround, but I think everyone knows this is the right move.”

Several students at the University of Iowa expressed their support for the policy change.

Freshman Clare Goerdt said she had been to shows at Blue Moose and Gabe’s in Iowa City and thought the changes would be manageable for the city.

“[Alcohol] could be a problem, but there are a lot of regulations in Iowa City that they want to follow,” she said before the meeting. “I would definitely go to more shows if this is passed.”

Freshman Samantha Budzyn thought there were ways to prevent underage drinking at venues.

“It might lead to some alcohol issues, but I think you should be able to see a concert,” she said. “Maybe they can put an X on your hand [for underage venue-goers].”

Junior Kaleb Robuck said he had been to several local music venues and thought the changes were a good idea.

“I’ve gone a couple of times with underage friends, and I’d probably go more,” he said.

However, for people that have received tickets for violating the previous ordinance, there won’t be any legal options available to reverse the citation.

“If they’ve received tickets while it was illegal, there’s no provision for expungement,” said Eric Goers, an assistant city attorney.

But now that 19- and 20-year-olds are allowed after midnight, McCarthy thinks it’s up to the venues to do their part.

“[The council] has done everything it can,” he said. “Now, the ball is in our court. I think we’ll get back to a real cultural city, but it’ll take work on everybody’s part.”


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