New group backs Iowa City's bar entry law - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New group backs Iowa City's bar entry law

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) - There's been an effort to reverse a new law in Iowa City that keeps anyone under 21 out of bars after 10 PM.

Voters may be able to repeal the law this November, but not before city and University of Iowa leaders get the word out on why they support it.

"We've had a number of retail establishments that have left...and have been replaced by bars," said John Balmer, former Iowa City mayor. It's changed so much, he's heard many people his age say they make an effort to avoid this area. "They frankly do not like to come downtown in the evening." He blames this on the nuisance caused by underage drinking.

Balmer is one of several members of a new group called "21 Makes Sense." Over the next several months, they'll be trying to convince residents and students that the current law is a sensible step toward decreasing underage drinking. Mayor Matt Hayek and Tom Rocklin, the university's vice president of student services, say it's become an escalating problem.

"Almost half of all ambulance calls in the downtown area are alcohol-related," said Hayek. "A third of those ambulance calls concern underage drinking."

"Our students' typical drinking episode includes two and a half more drinks than on the average campus," Rocklin explained, "and our students' estimated blood alcohol level after a typical drinking episode is one and a half times the national average."

But people like Matt Pfaltzgraf, a member of the Y.E.S.S. group, hope to drum up enough support to vote the law down, just like it was three years ago.

"When the votes were counted, 58 percent of them said we want it to be 19," Pfaltzgraf said.

And instead of banning 19 and 20-year olds from bars, he wants the city to concentrate on its handling of heavy drinking events, like home football games. "According to their own data, there's more people arrested during those weekends than there are throughout the entire fall semester."

No matter what happens, it seems the debate over how old is old enough for bars is far from over. If the law ends up being repealed again, it will be another two years before the city can try to pass it again. If the vote to reverse it fails, it will be another two years before voters can try to repeal it again.

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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