21 And Older Ordinance Likely Back on the Ballot in Iowa City

By Heather Hubbs, Reporter

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Nearly three years ago, voters in Iowa City upheld the 21 and over ordinance for bars by a narrow 52 to 48 percent margin. It faced the challenge after only a few months on the books.

This November, the debate about age limits will likely be back on the ballot. This would be the third time the issue goes before the voters.

The debate goes back to 2007 -- the first time the 21 and over ordinance went on the ballot. It didn't pass, but it did in 2010.

Several bar owners want the ordinance to be repealed and have gathered enough signatures to force the city council to take action and decide whether to allow those 19 and older into bars once again or send the issue to voters. That's what the council will be voting on at Tuesday night's meeting.

According to council member Rick Dobyns, the city council took a straw poll at a recent work session, and at that time the council unanimously supported the current ordinance.

"The council has modified the ordinance over the last few years based on input from business people who serve alcohol responsibly. When sponsors of the current referendum, who are business owners, when they tell you it's about the students, it's about the money," said Dobyns.

Both Dobyns and Susan Mims say they believe there have been significant improvements to downtown since raising the bar entry age. Dobyns adds the amount of high risk drinking has gone down over the past three years.

Supporters of the current referendum include the owner of the Union Bar and Manager of Martini's, both in downtown Iowa City. We were unable to reach either for comment.
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