ARTICLE

I.C. to discuss changes to 21-only law

Ordinance would place more rules on establishments that want to be exempt

Iowa City Police Lt. Mike Brotherton patrols the Pedestrian Mall Friday, Aug. 27, 2010 in downtown Iowa City. (Brian Ray
Iowa City Police Lt. Mike Brotherton patrols the Pedestrian Mall Friday, Aug. 27, 2010 in downtown Iowa City. (Brian Ray/ SourceMedia Group News)

IOWA CITY — The City Council on Monday will discuss changes to the 21-only bar ordinance that would place more rules on establishments like restaurants that want to be exempt from the law.

The proposal comes from the Partnership for Alcohol Safety, which is a group of city leaders, University of Iowa officials and students, business owners and community leaders.

The group wants to stop what it sees as establishments taking advantage of exemptions to the law, which bans people younger than 21 from being in places with liquor licenses after 10 p.m.

An establishment can receive an exemption by showing that its primary purpose is not the sale of alcohol, including demonstrating that more than 50 percent of its sales come from goods and services other than alcohol.

The group, in a report to the City Council, said “the large number of people under the legal age who gather at alcohol establishments with food-related exception certificates warrants creating much stronger standards.”

Also, when a bar is sold, the new owner gets an automatic six-month exemption. The status is being abused by a few downtown establishments who are using it to serve underage patrons, some bar owners have claimed.

City staff has weighed in on the recommendations, and the City Council will discuss them at a work session Monday.

Among the proposals from city staff are:

- Establishments with exemptions must have a PAULA ratio of 0.25 or less per officer visit. A PAULA is a citation for a possession of alcohol by an underage person. Assistant City Attorney Eric Goers, in a memo released Thursday, said PAULA rates have plummeted with 21-only and staff thought the stricter standard was better, and should apply to entertainment venues too.

- A new licensee would have to show after six months that more than 50 percent of its sales were from goods and services other than alcohol and that it met the PAULA ratio and other requirements. Also, no more than one temporary six-month exception may be granted with the sale of a business at the same location in a three-year period.

- Places like restaurants that get an exception must keep their kitchens open and serve their full menu any time they are open.“There’s no point in permitting a ‘restaurant’ to allow underage patrons past 10:00 so they can order food, if they can’t order food,” Goers wrote.

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