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Partnership of Alcohol Safety supports 21-ordinance

BY ABIGAIL MEIER | SEPTEMBER 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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Iowa City could possibly be rid of an ordinance that keeps underage patrons out of local bars after 10 p.m., but one local group has chosen to support its continuance.

At their meeting Wednesday, the Partnership for Alcohol Safety decided to support the 21-ordinance when it goes up for a vote on Nov. 5.

“The group indicated that the 21-ordinance is a matter of public policy that is effective,” said Mayor Matt Hayek.  “It made sense to support it.” 

Kelly Bender, the campus-community harm reduction initiatives coordinator, said that since the ordinance initially took effect in 2010, officials have seen improvements to public safety and vitality of downtown and none of the feared negative consequences have come to pass. 

The group’s mission states it exists to identify and advocate for strategies that reduce high-risk drinking and promote a vibrant downtown. Chuck Peters, president of the Gazette Co., strongly reminded the group members of their mission.

“The fact that [the 21-ordinance] has become a political issue and thrown around as a political football doesn’t mean we should change our mission,” he said. 

Peters said that with a strategy in place that is effectively working and supporting group’s mission, the group would logically support all of the methods that back up the mission. 

Jim Rinella, the owner of Airliner, 22 S. Clinton St., provided a different perspective. He noted he would like to see as much volume downtown as possible and thought the 21-ordinance limits the number of people that come through. 

“We really are a serious restaurant,” said Rinella. “I want as much business to be downtown as possible.  I think most of these bar owners have invested a lot of money into their business, like mine, to help support their families.”

Rinella said the Airliner has at least five to six doormen every night, and if a patron is caught underage drinking, he or she is  removed from the building.  He said the Airline is devoted to providing an environment that families and friends can enjoy, but he does not want to limit it to certain people. 

However at the meeting, George Etre, the owner of Takanami, 219 Iowa Ave., and Formosa, 221 E. College St., said that compared with three years ago, the variety of downtown businesses has improved. 

“Compared to three years ago, there were fewer bars that 19 year olds couldn’t get into,” said Etre.  “We are letting underage people come in and dance and listen to music. There are many places to go.”


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