Proposed bill would allow minor into bars


by Ashley Smith, Layout Editor

A proposed Iowa Senate bill would allow some minors into bars past 10 p.m.

The bill, Senate File 208, would overrule any city or county ordinances preventing 19 and 20 year olds from staying in the bar until closing time.

The objective of the bill is to reduce the amount of underage binge drinking at house parties by giving underage people a controlled environment to attend.

For Indianola bars like The Zoo, Mojos and The Irishman, that means upping security measures to prevent underage drinking.

Darrel Augustson, the owner of The Zoo, said, “There’d be some challenges. It puts it all on the business to regulate it.”

Eric Runyan, a bartender at The Zoo, agreed. “There would definitely have to be some kind of wristband system where if you’re 21 you have to have a band on.”

Even though there would be more regulation on who can get alcohol in the bars, there wouldn’t be a flawless system to make sure minors aren’t consuming alcohol.

Emily Wetherall, a sophomore at the University of Northern Iowa, says she sees underage drinking all the time at the 19-plus bars near campus.

“As long as you’re in the bar you don’t even need to know anyone who’s 21, you could walk up to a 21 year old and say ‘hey, can you buy two beers and keep the change?’ and they will,” Wetherall said.

For this reason, another bar in Cedar Falls recently changed their policy to 21-plus.

“They had a program going on that if you were 21 you could buy a cup for $8 and get free refills of beer all night so people who were minors would go to the bars with their 21 year old friends and they would all just share a cup,” Wetherall said.

Before 2010, Iowa City had an ordinance that allowed minors into bars, but due to the out of control bar scene, the city decided to change it.

According to KCRG, the city has seen a significant decrease in assaults, sexual assaults, fight calls and medical calls since the change.

Although crime is down in the downtown area, they have also seen a 43% increase in disorderly house citations (KCRG).

Wetherall thinks allowing minors into bars would be a safer alternative to house parties.

“(Bars) do have bouncers, they have trained bar tenders that are going to make sure you get your drink with no one contaminating it, whereas if you’re having a jungle juice party, someone could easily slip something into the bowl,” Wetherall said.

Wetherall also thinks bars are the reason a lot of people stay on campus on the weekends.

“I personally think that comparing UNI to Simpson or Iowa to Simpson, I know they’re completely different colleges but I know we have bars we can go to, I think it definitely keeps people here on the weekends. It gives people something to do whether they drink or not,” Wetherall said.

Augustson thinks allowing minors into bars would improve Indianola’s downtown scene.

“I think it would also improve the nightlife scene downtown if 19, 20 year olds would have the opportunity to come downtown and have fun before they turn 21,” Augustson said.

Runyan thinks a better idea to regulate binge drinking is to change the drinking age.

“I would be more for the drinking age to be lowered to 19 rather than letting 19 year olds in the bar and the drinking age still being 21, because that would make it even easier to regulate,” Runyan said.

Augustson agrees, “If you really want to have an impact on binge drinking, lower the drinking age to 19.”