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Local cafe seeking 21-ordinance exemption

BY ERICA MAHONEY | AUGUST 27, 2014 5:00 AM

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For the first time in several months, Iowa City officials may see a business seek for an exemption to the 21-ordinance.

Trumpet Blossom Café, which opened in April 2012, is a cozy vegan restaurant that occasionally hosts events, such as live music and open-mike nights. This is one of the main reasons the owner, Katy Meyer, will soon apply for exemption from the ordinance.

“We sometimes have events that people under 21 would enjoy,” she said. “We have had to turn away some patrons because of the ordinance.”

Meyer said she believes because bar sales are low enough, he establishment should be able to qualify for the exemption.

The 21-ordinance, which was implemented in Iowa City in 2010, prevents people under the age of 21 from being in establishments that sell alcohol after 10 p.m.

“I feel we are not the kind of establishment that has been specifically affected by [the ordinance] since we don’t rely on alcohol sales as a large portion of our revenue,” Meyer said.

Jennifer Roberts, a regular Trumpet Blossom customer, said she was in favor of the café being granted an exemption.

“I think it would be positive for the restaurant,” she said. “The regular downtown bars [are] where the heavy drinking goes on, but in a place like this, it shouldn’t really be a problem.”

Another Trumpet Blossom customer, James Bigelow, said he is in favor of the restaurant receiving an exemption as well. He said if he had initially voted for the 21-ordinance, he would have been against it.

“I think the minority of drinkers have spoiled it for everyone else,” Bigelow said. “Most kids in Iowa City can handle themselves and are just having fun — they don’t really cause problems.”

Several bars, restaurants, and venues, including businesses such as FilmScene, the Englert, and Riverside Theater, have exemptions to the ordinance.

One bar in Iowa City that has already been through the exemption process is the Blue Moose Tap House.

Blue Moose booking manager Cole Nedved said because of the number of live shows, an exemption was necessary.

“Basically, we’re a music venue, and we do live shows almost every week,” Nedved said. “We have a lot of shows that are 19-plus, so we kind of needed to have that exemption.”

Luckily, the bar was granted exemption from the ordinance on grounds of being an “entertainment venue.”

With an entertainment-venue exemption, businesses that sell alcohol are allowed to have 19- and 20-year-olds remain on the premise after 10 p.m., as long the establishment has 150 live performances per year.

Nedved said the 21-ordinance has changed the atmosphere of downtown.

“It’s definitely knocked down the availability for students to go out and do certain things, like going out to the bars with their friends, whether they are drinking there or not,” Nedved said. “It’s definitely caused downtown to be a little less chaotic.”

City officials have expressed satisfaction with how well the 21-ordinance has been working and the effect it has had in Iowa City.

However, they also encourage restaurant owners to pursue the application process for exemption if they feel they meet the requirements.

“We are pleased with how well the ordinance has worked and are confident that it will continue to work well,” said Shannon McMahon, the communications coordinator for Iowa City. “The City Council has been flexible in amending the ordinance over time to meet the needs of our businesses and the general public.”


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