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Iowa City Denies Liquor License to Sports Column

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IOWA CITY The Iowa City Council Tuesday night held firm on its get-tough policy on bars caught with too many underage drinkers.

The council voted 7-0 to deny the liquor license renewal application for Sports Column, a large and popular downtown bar at 12 S. Dubuque St.

The bar's owners can appeal the decision to the state and remain open in the meantime.

Though some council members said they thought the Sports Column's owners were trying to keep alcohol out of the hands of those younger than 21, they said they had an obligation to follow a council policy regarding citations given to people possessing alcohol under the legal age, or PAULA.

For the past year, the council has been denying liquor licenses to establishments with PAULA rates greater than 1.0 per officer visit. The council has denied the liquor license request to three other bars that ran afoul of the policy, although those bars are fighting those decisions.

"I think it's a matter of consistency," council member Susan Mims said.

The Sports Column had a 12-month PAULA rate of 1.4. Co-owner Bill Bryce said he takes underage drinking very seriously, has enacted measures to try to control the problem and none of his employees has been cited for serving someone under the legal age.

Starting Tuesday, a new city law took effect that prevents people younger than 21 from being in bars at night. It's possible that law could be overturned by a public vote, but Bryce said he may make his bar 21-and-older no matter what.

"To be honest, folks, I don't want to be in front of you any more than you want me in front of you," Bryce said.

In December, an administrative law judge said Iowa City's PAULA policy violated state law. The city appealed to the administrator of Iowa's Alcohol Beverages Division, and a decision is expected this month.

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