Three years after Iowa City voters approved the 21-only ordinance, the question of bar-entry age is back on the ballot.
We see no good reason to overturn the ordinance to once again allow adults under the legal drinking age to frequent bars after 10 p.m.
Virtually every indicator shows the ordinance is working as intended: Police report that alcohol-related arrests are down. The University of Iowa reports that surveys show dangerous drinking behaviors among students have decreased. Neighborhood leaders say that claims that the ordinance would negatively affect the city’s core, historic neighborhoods have proved to be unfounded.
Even UI student leaders say the issue is not that important to many of their peers — most of whom weren’t here to benefit from old rules that allowed 19- and 20-year-olds to frequent establishments primarily involved in the sale of alcohol, at the business’ discretion.
We think it’s in everyone’s best interest to vote against repealing the 21-only law.
None of the fears voiced by opponents of the ordinance when it was enacted have come to pass. The city’s music scene is thriving. Restaurants continue to do a brisk business.
The storefronts left vacant by those few bars that did close their doors once the ordinance was enacted quickly filled with other offerings. Downtown is as vibrant as ever.
Some have argued that it’s somehow hypocritical or unproductive to ban underage adults from bars, because alcohol is readily available to underage adults, who will, they argue, continue to drink. But acknowledging the reality of underage drinking is a different matter than tacitly condoning the practice and allowing businesses to profit by it.
Tuesday’s vote is not a referendum on the drinking age. That’s a separate debate — one we also think is worth expanding.
Meanwhile, there is no debating that Iowa City’s 21-ordinance is working exactly as it was intended to. Voters should keep it on the books.
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