Iowa City city council to consider amendment to drinking establishment zoning requirements - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa City city council to consider amendment to drinking establishment zoning requirements

IOWA CITY (KWWL) - Iowa City's planning and zoning commission unanimously approved an amendment Thursday night, which would require a minimum distance between drinking establishments downtown.

Two experts from the University of Iowa were there, with research pertaining to alcohol outlet density.

This proposed change to the current law, which has no spacing requirement, would not affect existing bars and taverns. Research seems to show that as the number of bars in Iowa City has increased, so too has drinking-related crime.

Dr. Peter Nathan, Professor of Health, there were 18 bars and taverns in Iowa City's downtown 25 years ago. 

Now, there are 54.

"As the number of bars increases, the number of drinkers increases. As the number of drinkers increase, violence increases, and alcohol-related arrests increase," said Dr. Nathan

The proposed law would require a 500-foot minimum span between any newly-created bars or taverns. However, existing bars would be able to stay put. The city is also considering a less-restrictive distance of 250 feet.

Bob Miklo says some building owners, have expressed concern. "Their concern is that if the bar loses its lisence and is closed down for a year, that it would be, accoring to the zoning, difficult for them to rent to another bar-type business."

Sarah Hansen, Associate Director of Education for the University's Student Health Services, says it's not certain how much alcohol-related offenses would decrease as a result of restricting the density of downtown drinking establishments. She told us it differs from one community to the next.

"One of the research gaps is that we don't know what improvements communities exactly can expect," she said. "We don't have as much research of what happens as density declines; that can take years or decades to see the results."

Part of the amendment would also require a 1,000-foot distance between actual liquor stores, and convenience stores that sell liquor. The amendment will have to pass three votes by the city council, in order to become law. They'll take up the issue on May 5th.

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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