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Drink Ordinance in Iowa City

It’s only been a couple of years since the ordinance banning underage people from Iowa City bars has been in place. The ordinance makes it illegal for 19 and 20 year-olds to be in bars in the city after 10pm, a measure designed with University of Iowa students in mind. Last year, reports showed the ordinance had already shown an effect, with the number of underage drinkers down – although the number arrested for public intoxication was up.

Students are now pushing a petition to have the ordinance lifted by the city. Business owners apparently agree, pointing out that students shouldn’t have to send their younger friends away, just because the clock strikes 10 pm. And while the number of students caught drinking has fallen, the amount of binge drinking in the college town is apparently on the rise.

There’s also been an economic impact on the city. No one can say for sure, but several bars closed after the ordinance passed, other businesses that don’t rely on alcohol sales, have taken their places.

City residents are divided on the issue, with the split along student/non-student lines. The measure is up for a vote on November 7th, and if not enough people vote for it, the ordinance will disappear.

Those concerned about underage drinking point out it’s just common sense. If you have kids who shouldn’t be drinking in a bar, it’s too easy for them to share drinks with someone old enough to buy. Bar owners say they protect against this with wrist bands and other measures designed to spot drink sharing. But it’s hard to believe there’s 100% accountability.

Students, if they follow patterns elsewhere, are clever enough to smuggle their own booze in, or drink before they go out partying. Perhaps this issue shouldn’t even be on the front burner – after all, the much more serious problem of club drugs makes sneaking alcohol seem tame.

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