By Tom Rocklin and Matt Hayek
On Nov. 5 Iowa City voters will choose, once again, between a safer, vibrant downtown and the profit motives of a small number of bar owners. Unless the community votes “no” on the referendum to repeal 21-only, we will return to a time when downtown was an underage drinking destination with all the problems that followed.
It’s really that simple. In 2010, the City Council passed an ordinance tying the bar entry age after 10 p.m. to the legal drinking age of 21. Later that year, the voters rejected an effort to repeal the ordinance. Since then, our police report substantial declines in downtown calls for assaults, criminal mischief, fights in progress and intoxicated pedestrians. The University of Iowa reports remarkable declines in every indicator of unsafe drinking among students.
In 2010, opponents of 21-only predicted that the near-campus areas would explode. Disorderly house arrests are down 26 percent despite heavier enforcement.
The opponents predicted more alcohol-related emergencies among young people. ER visits for alcohol emergencies dropped for 19- and 20-year-olds following adoption of the ordinance.
The opponents predicted our downtown economy would collapse. While four venues (out of dozens) have closed, they were replaced by a diverse array of office, retail, restaurant and film offerings.
If downtown improved and the parade of horribles did not result, why are we voting on this issue again? One of the promoters of the referendum, a bar owner, recently told a local newspaper, “As far as the money thing, I honestly would like more money.” He has yet to tell the community why it should place his financial gain over the proven benefits of a common sense ordinance.
Downtown is now more balanced, vibrant and welcoming. It is also safer.
Let’s not turn back the clock.
Tom Rocklin and Matt Hayek are co-chairs of 21 Makes Sense. Comments: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org