Exemption tweak backed

BY DANIEL SEIDL | MARCH 26, 2014 5:00 AM

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On the heels of one local business recently obtaining an exemption to the 21-ordinance, city officials are moving forward with plans to clarify the terms for having an entertainment venue in Iowa City.
City officials granted the Union Bar, 121 E. College St., an exemption earlier this month, and now at least one other downtown establishment —the Summit, 10 S. Clinton St. — is applying for the same status.

“One of the things when we passed the 21-ordinance was saying we wanted to do what we could to improve entertainment options,” Iowa City City Councilor Susan Mims said. “I think it’s important for the businesses, and I think it’s very important to the under-21 crowd.”

The council voted on the first consideration of an ordinance clarifying the 21-ordinance on Tuesday meeting, and it passed 7-0. The ordinance would clarify that the city could deny an entertainment-exception application under the same circumstance that the business could lose its exemptions.

“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me to give someone an entertainment-venue exemption if you could the next day turn around and revoke it,” Mims said. “What staff was saying is we need to get these two pieces consistent.”

According to a letter sent to the council by Assistant City Attorney Eric Goers, the Summit has two charges of serving to minors in the past year, which could lead to the denial of its pending application for exemption.

Though Brad Temple, a managing partner at the Summit, said his establishment only has one violation.

“The only thing that seems to be impeding [this process] is [Goers] citing we have two sale-to-minors violations,” he said. “We only have one sale-to-minors violation.”

Entertainment-venue exemptions allow businesses granted the exemption to have patrons under the legal age after 10 p.m. provided there is a live show.

There are currently six businesses downtown that hold an entertainment-venue exemptions.

City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes said this clarification would make the 21-ordinance more in line with the city’s initial plans.

“Currently, it’s a grounds for revocation, but it’s not included in the earlier section,” she said. “I think that was the intention, actually, all along.”

The ordinance would also narrow the window in which an establishment could have a sale-to-underage charge. The period would be changed to the previous five years at the time the application is submitted rather than any five-year period in the business’ history.

The change may encourage establishments to change their practices rather than being permanently disqualified.

Under the new change, the definition of “DJ” would also be clarified. Currently, DJs are not considered performers. However, this is not meant to affect “producers” who play electronic drum machines, which could be considered instruments. The clarification will update the definition to only those who play recorded songs or advertise as a DJ.

Mims said the council may look into the Summit’s issue at a later date, but the ordinance must be passed first.

Councilor Kingsley Botchway agreed with Mims.

“Whatever is going on with the Summit and its being hindered, it’s worth looking into,” he said. “[But] these are two separate issues.”

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