The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

December 5, 2013

Council delays alcohol rules talks

By Katie Dahlstrom Herald Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — City officials are kicking the proverbial beer can down the road.

During a Rules and Regulations Committee meeting Tuesday, members debated altering the percentage of sales stemming from items other than alcohol and making other changes to the city’s alcohol-related rules.

However, with four new council members hitting city hall in less than a month, committee members decided the changes should be vetted by the new members.

“I have a feeling we should wait on this, because they could have a totally different view given all the options they have,” City Attorney Jeff Farwell said.

Ward 4 Councilman Paul Gassman and Ward 2 Councilwoman Julie Allesee are members of the committee and will remain on the council. They discussed the changes Tuesday before voting to withhold a decision.

Changing the percentage from its current 65 percent to 50 percent would change the amount of Clinton establishments that need a Class II exemption and are required to follow the city’s alcohol monitoring plan.

In addition to changing the percentage of gross sales required for a Class II exemption, committee members floated the idea of changing what the city defines as gross sales.

The city’s current ordinance excludes things such as cover charges, ticket sales and coin-operated machines like pool tables, dart machines, non-food vending machines and a bevy of other items from gross sales, making Clinton extremely restrictive compared to many other cities.

“I couldn’t find anybody who uses that definition, not even close,” Farwell said. “Iowa City was about the most restrictive I could come up with.”

Police Chief Brian Guy said he had no issue with the city lowering the threshold from 65 to 50 percent, but wanted to see a change made to the city’s 12:30 a.m. curfew for 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds in bars.

“The percentage itself of 65, 50, whatever the case is, I think is more of a policy question for the council to determine. Our biggest concern is the time element,” Guy said. “We think 12:30 is too late to have people under 21 in bars.”

He suggested while most other cities apply the 50 percent of gross sales rule, those cities also have more restrictions in place to reduce the chance a minor will be in a bar drinking.

Clinton’s 12:30 a.m. curfew for minors in bars is the most lax of any city. In Iowa City the curfew is 10 p.m., Dubuque 9 p.m. and Cedar Rapids 7 p.m.

The conversation stems from more than two years of work the Gateway ImpACT Coalition has done to alter the monitoring plan bars with Class II exemptions are required to follow.

In October, the City Council rejected a change to the plan to force all patrons between the ages of 21 and 30 to wear wristbands in bars where minors are allowed.