21-only Ordinance Remains in Iowa City

By Erin Jordan, Reporter

Bar goers stand outside the Airliner in Iowa City just after 10 P.M., Friday May 13, 2011. The Airliner, is one of several establishments in Iowa City with an exception from the over 21 ordinance.. (Becky Malewitz/SourceMedia Group News)

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By Aaron Hepker

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Iowa City voters upheld an ordinance banning 19- and 20-year-olds from bars by a vote of 66 percent (7,191 votes) to 34 percent (3,623 votes) Tuesday.

The Iowa City 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 upheld the law, 52 percent to 48 percent.

A public vote for a 21-only law failed in 2007.

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.

They turned the campaign over to students, with Michael Kessler, a 19-year-old University of Iowa sophomore, serving as chairman for Young Adults for Equality and Safety (YES).

While the pro-repeal group raised significantly less cash than 21 Makes Sense — $3,000 compared to $12,000 since August — they used social media to mobilize students. On Twitter, @21Repeal_IC tweeted more than 70 times in the past month to its 257 followers.
@21Makessense tweeted just 31 times since August, when the group started posting for the first time since 2010.

21 Makes Sense has countered with mailings that tout public safety statistics since the ordinance came online. Iowa City Police report 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.

Repeal supporters said the ban has pushed problem drinking into the neighborhoods, but ICPD also reported a 64 percent decline in disturbance/loud party calls between 2009 and 2012.

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