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UI students oppose 21-ordinance

BY JULIA DAVIS | SEPTEMBER 26, 2013 5:00 AM

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Since being instituted in 2010, the 21-only ordinance has been a constant source of debate among local businesses, University of Iowa students, and government officials in Iowa City.

The ordinance prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from being in a bar after 10 p.m.

On Nov. 5, the ordinance will go up for a vote once again. The UI Young Americans for Liberty hosted an event on Wednesday night titled “Restore Iowa City: Repeal the 21-Ordinance” to discuss tactics to put in place in order to successfully repeal the ordinance in the upcoming election.

At the event, members brainstormed a variety of strategies to gather the needed number of citizens to vote “yes” to repeal the ordinance, as well as gaining awareness of the election among students.

Group President Joey Gallagher cited a number of reasons he and the group are opposed to the ordinance. He argued the safety of students is compromised because of drinking that occurs at house parties is not regulated.

“When you’re downtown, you can’t get wasted, black-out drunk like you can at house parties,” Gallagher said. “It doesn’t fly. It’s just not the environment.”

However, in a recent interview with The Daily Iowan, UI President Sally Mason addressed this concern as a nonissue.

“We track our own students’ behaviors, and we’ve certainly seen decreases in everything from binge drinking to arrests,” she said. “Everybody said it would just mean there would be lots more wild house parties, and while I think there are probably more house parties, we haven’t seen the incidents of those go beyond anything that wasn’t realistic.”

According to a spring report from the American College Health Assessment, alcohol use at the UI has decreased significantly since 2009 and is now reportedly at the lowest level in more than 20 years of data collection.

However, the grand total of alcohol-related incidents on campus, both criminal and noncriminal, have increased from 1,046 in 2009 to 1,719 in 2012, a recent statistical report by UI police indicated.

The meeting also addressed the ordinance’s economic effect on bar owners in downtown Iowa City. Many bar owners stand with the Young Americans for Liberty and wish to repeal the ordinance.

“I think anything that will drive more legal volume to all of the bars and the restaurants downtown, I think [all the bar owners] would be in favor of that,” said Airliner owner Jim Rinella. “I think anything that diminishes the volume of business makes it very hard, because there are certain economics of business that you have to think about.”

But Kelly Bender, the campus-community harm reduction initiatives coordinator for the UI, said while bars and nightclubs lose business due to the ordinance, other businesses have room to grow downtown.

“There’s a lot of things in the pipeline that are being planned, that there wasn’t space for in the previous environment that was taken over by mostly nightclubs when we were an underage drinking destination,” she said. “There’s just been so much progress that it just doesn’t make any kind of common sense to say let’s repeal this progress at this time.”

UI senior Adam Tarleton, who attended the meeting, thinks that the issue comes down to freedom and what defines an adult.

“Essentially, I think it’s more of when you’re 18, you’re an adult, and you have a right to go to the bars and do what you want,” he said. “I don’t think you should be punished just because of your age.”


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