Iowa City Council Interested in Changes to Bar Proximity Rule

By Gregg Hennigan, 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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IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa City will explore making changes to a rule that requires drinking establishments be a certain distance from each other.

Currently, there must be at least 500 feet between drinking establishments. The law went into effect in 2009, and existing bars and restaurants were exempt, so it applies to places that have opened since then.

The 500-foot rule covers the entire city, but at a work session Tuesday night, City Council members said they were interested in exempting outlying areas of town.

City staff was charged with coming up with ideas for where it would remain in effect, but the discussion Tuesday made clear downtown and the area around the University of Iowa campus are likely to still be covered. The law was passed in response to concerns about binge drinking at downtown bars.

A drinking establishment under the 500-foot rule is a business with a liquor license whose primary activity is the sale of food or alcohol and is open after midnight.

Council member Terry Dickens raised the idea of easing restrictions outside of the downtown area, saying restaurant and bar owners said it made it more difficult to open establishments on the edge of town.

Wary of the bar scene shifting away from downtown, council members said they were interested in there being some sort of density formula to prevent several drinking establishments from opening next to each other elsewhere in town.

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