21-Only debated in Iowa City - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

21-Only debated in Iowa City

IOWA CITY (KWWL) --  Iowa City has been labeled as one of the top 10 party towns in the country.  But when the city went to the new law that only allowed those 21 and up to be in bars after 10 p.m. things have started to change in the city.

Police say there's been a big change in the number of arrests for possession of alcohol under the legal age.  In 2009, there were 83 arrests.  In 2010, there have been just 50.  In 2009, 44 of those arrests were at businesses.  This year just one arrest has happened at a business.

A public forum and debate took place over the 21 ordinance at the Iowa City Public Library Monday.

It was a heated debate between those for and against Iowa City's 21 ordinance Monday night.  Both sides agree on one major point:  Student safety is what is at stake here.  But, they differ on whether the 21 ordinance is helping to achieve that goal.

With just about three weeks to go before election day, University of Iowa students are handing out a lot of flyers hoping to get students to the polls. One of the issues on the ballot in Iowa City is the 21 ordinance.

"We just want to make sure they're aware that the early sites are right in front of them. It is very easy to do and takes only five minutes," said Bennett Noonan, a University of Iowa student.

Many are hoping that Iowa City's 21 ordinance is overturned. They say underage drinking hasn't stopped, it's just become less noticeable.

"People have been increasing the amount of alcohol they consume in places where they are not monitored.  It is in apartments, houses, dorms,… everywhere that no one can identify if they are of age, over age, what they are drinking, or how much they have consumed,"  said Matt Pfaltzgraf with Yes to Entertaining Students Safely, a group working to overturn the ordinance.

But those hoping to keep the 21 ordinance on the books dispute that and say keeping nineteen and twenty year-olds out of bars is safer for everyone.

"Just four months in, they can see that there is compelling safety data that the 21 ordinance is making our community a safer place.  That's really our key point.  Putting that data out there, we then question why anyone would to take that away from our community?"  said Nick Westergaard with 21 Makes Sense, a group in support of the ordinance.

So between now and election day, both sides hope that debates and forums like the one held Monday night, only make it easier for voters to make an informed decision at the polls.

KWWL Reporter:  Kera Mashek

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