The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

October 3, 2013

Bars' wristband discussion bounces back to Committee of the Whole

By Amy Kent
Herald Staff Writer

CLINTON — CLINTON — A decision to implement colored wristbands in 14 local bars is still up in the air after the Clinton City Council’s Committee of the Whole sent it back to to the Rules and Regulations Committee for a second discussion.

Members of the Rules and Regulations Committee met Tuesday and once again discussed the future of a rule that would require patrons ages 21 to 30 to wear colored wristbands at all times in any bar or tavern that allows people younger than 21.

The discussion originally came to light through the Gateway ImpACT Coalition’s Marijuana and Underage Drinking (MUD) group at a Rules and Regulations Committee meeting Sept. 3. They based their argument on concerns that the current city monitoring plan yields too much gray area, making it easier to manipulate.

MUD proposed an amended monitoring plan it feels will be better understood by local bar owners and will clearly state what the city expects from the 14 exempt establishments.

 “The current ordinance does require the bars to use the wristbands but it’s very vague because it says special events and large crowds,” MUD coordinator Crystal Lawburgh said. “What (one bar owner) may think is a special event or large crowd may be different than what a different bar might think. So it’s very hard for bars to understand when (they are) expected to use this.”

To deter confusion, MUD suggested the city adopt a change to the monitoring plan that says patrons must wear colored wristbands “at all times” as opposed to during special events or large crowds as it currently states.

Other adjustments MUD would like to see the city move forward with would be to increase the cut off age from 26 to 30 as well as requiring each bar to have a designated colored wristband with the establishment’s name clearly printed on it.

Rules and Regulations Committee Chairwoman Maggie Klaes strongly supports the new amendments MUD has proposed, expressing that the new changes are “perfect,” but other members of the committee do not agree.

Councilman John Rowland feels the changes come with little merit and feels if the city really wants to see a decrease in underage drinking it must amend the curfew in which people younger than 21 are allowed in bars or taverns.

“It seems like we should reduce the hours. I personally would favor something in the order of 9 p.m. or 9:30 p.m,” said Rowland adding that Clinton exceeds other cities in Iowa that allow patrons younger than 21 in bars by at least two hours, the latest being Iowa City, which requires them to leave by 10 p.m.

Legends Sports Bar owner Dave Holmes defended his younger than 21 customers that come in after a work at Nestle Purina and other local factories where the shifts end at 11 p.m., saying that without their contributions to the bar, their weekly sales would be diminished.

“A lot of the slower nights during the week we have kids coming in that are 18, 19 and 20 years old that just want to play a game of pool after work,” Holmes said. “That pays for the bartender that night.”

He also added that during nights of the week, when the bar business is slower, it is a much easier task to monitor underage drinking than weekend nights or special events, but he has been implementing colored wristbands for people ages 21 to 26 since he opened the bar six years ago.

Although the Rules and Regulations Committee did not come to a unanimous decision, the amended monitoring plan was voted forward 2 to 1, and will be looked at for a second time, by the Committee of the Whole at the next scheduled meeting.