Iowa City's Bar Ordinance Controversy
This paper examines Iowa City's current controversy with the 19-only bar ordinance approved by Iowa City's City Council on August 1, 2003. The controversy of underage drinking that included implementing a 21-ordinance has been an oft-debated issue for Iowa City's City Council who is split over the issue. The current ordinance allows 19 and 20 year olds in the bars after 10 p.m. I have examined several sources and classified them into the following criteria: a) Pro-ordinance based on safety perspectives, b) Pro-ordinance based on unrestricted environment issues, c) Anti-ordinance based on alcohol statistics, d) Anti-ordinance based on crime rates, e) Anti-ordinance based on overall community as it stands in Iowa City today.
Pro-ordinance based on safety perspectives
Having a 19-only bar ordinance, students can drink in a relatively safe environment that provides responsible outlets for alcohol consumption because attacking the issue entirely would be impossible. Underage students are not going to stop drinking even if they aren't allowed in the bars (Jeffrey Patch 2/12/03). Most bars provide at least reasonable assurance that all customers will be drinking safely with staff members paid to keep patrons in line and police officers an earshot away (DI Editorial Board 9/25/06). Downtown establishments monitor the patrons' alcohol intake, use careful wristband systems, employ sober staff, and pay heavy fines if found to be serving to minors (Lindsay Schutte 10/1/04). Police records show that 93 percent of underage drinkers cited for possession of alcohol were ticketed at the bars (Drew Kerr & Nick Peterson 12/9/05). Irresponsible and underage consumers are hit where it hurts the most, their wallets, while responsible users are free from expensive tickets and fines. "We are not after underage drinking but rather binge drinking," said City Council member Connie Champion. "It is about the abuse of alcohol, not the consumption" (Jessica Seveska 10/19/04). Enacting a 21-ordinance in Iowa City would cultivate too much competition among bars to attract the small crowd of legal age drinkers. When Iowa State passed a 21-ordinance, the intensity of binge drinking at bars worsened because bars were forced to compete with each other due to less business, reducing prices per drink to as little as one penny (Katherine Bisanz 11/2/05). "Iowa City is a vibrant, energetic, and healthy community," said Connie Champion. "Students and all members of the community can benefit from the social scene. It's not the 20 year old having a beer that concerns me, it's the 20 beers that concern me" (Jessica Seveska 10/19/04). Underage drinking will always remain a fixture of Iowa City's nightlife, but the 19-ordinance will result in patrons' curbing their irresponsible alcohol use in a controlled, safe environment.
Pro-ordinance based on unrestricted environment issues
Having a 21-ordinance in Iowa City's bars would push drinking to house parties, with no rules and regulations, where most underage excessive, drinking occurs anyways. House parties are ignored by the police and the only appearance officers make at these parties are to break them up. The fear of being caught by police is a strong enough deterrent to ensure an unrestricted environment (DI Editorial Board 9/25/06). A Daily Iowan review of Iowa City police records shows house party hosts and their guests are rarely, if ever, reprimanded for their indiscriminate dispensing of alcohol (Drew Kerr & Nick Peterson 12/9/05). Iowa City police have not arrested any party hosts for bootlegging since 2001 and just seven have been cited for distributing alcohol to minors during that same time (Drew Kerr & Nick Peterson 12/9/05). Unlike the bars, parties have no entry age minimum, nor do the faceless hands pushing toward a house party keg have ages as they hold cups awaiting a refill. People as young as 15-years-old were found at one party, according to police...
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