Iowa City voters uphold 21-only ordinance
City leaders say they hope they won't have to defend ordinance again
UPDATE: Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek hopes resounding — and repeated — support for an ordinance banning 19- and 20-year-olds from bars after 10 p.m. will mean the City Council can focus its energy on other projects.
“I’d like to think we will not see this again,” Hayek said. “But I’m not confident.”
Iowa City voters upheld the 21 ordinance with 66 percent (7,191 votes) compared to 34 percent (3,623 votes) Tuesday.
The margin was much larger than in 2010 when 21-only won just 52 percent of the vote.
Michael Kessler, 19, a University of Iowa sophomore who served as chairman of the group seeking repeal, said he was surprised to see 51 percent of early voters oppose the repeal. His group had pushed for early voting in residence halls and other places convenient for UI students.
“We thought the vote would be a lot closer,” he said.
City and UI leaders have been fighting Iowa City’s party reputation for years. The council passed an ordinance in 2010 prohibiting people younger than 21 from being in places with liquor licenses after 10 p.m., with some exceptions. A petition that year forced an election, in which voters narrowly upheld the law.
George Wittgraf, owner of the Union Bar, and Josh Erceg, a manager at Martinis, submitted a petition in June forcing the council to repeal the ordinance or put the question before voters.
Hayek and Tom Rocklin, UI’s vice president for student life, mobilized the 21 Makes Sense group again. They cited public safety statistics including a 45 percent drop in assault calls, 26 percent decline in fights and 23 percent decline in calls for intoxicated pedestrians between 2009 and 2012.
“We feel good this (vote) is recognition that the community appreciates the benefits the 21 ordinance has brought to the community,” Hayek said.
Repeal supporters said the ban has pushed problem drinking into the neighborhoods, but Iowa City Police also reported a 64 percent decline in disturbance/loud party calls between 2009 and 2012.
Opponents of 21-only will have to wait two years to put the issue on the ballot again. Kessler said he’ll be ready.“I truly think student safety has been put at risk,” he said.