The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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February 5, 2014

City analyzing bar curfew for college-age minors

CLINTON — Legends Sports Bar owner Dave Holmes bills his business as a restaurant and a drinking establishment and says he’s careful to follow the city’s expectations for alcohol providers. He makes customers wear wristbands and cards anyone 26 or younger before serving.

By doing so, Holmes said he’s never been cited by the city of Clinton for a violation in 29 years of ownership. And since 45 percent of Legends’ gross sales are through food purchases, the business also qualifies for the city’s Class II Liquor License exemption.

Minors under 21 can remain on the Legends premises until 12:30 a.m., whereas without the exemption they would be asked to leave. This, said Holmes, allows him to provide a legal late night hangout place for college-age minors.

When the city’s Rules and Regulations Committee convened Tuesday, Holmes said he felt other businesses don’t play by the same rules but still apply for the exemption. This opens the door for more underage drinking.

“The state has me down as a restaurant but the city has me down as a bar,” Holmes said. “Ask the average parent in town and you’ll get an answer about what type of place they want their (underage) kid in.”

Rules and Reg has spent several of its recent meetings contemplating how to cut down underage drinking in the city. Before, that committee floated requiring all bars to use wristbands. This week, city leaders discussed the possibility of scaling back that 12:30 a.m. curfew and restructuring the Class II exemptions.

Both were ideas favored by Police Commander Tom Bohle. But doing so would greatly impact Legends, Holmes said, because it would mean removing dining customers who aren’t of age. He also wondered aloud if the other businesses that qualify under Class II are being honest with their personal assessments.

To receive the exemption, a bar must prove that 65 percent or less of its gross sales are from alcohol purchases.

“I think you would need a certain percentage (of gross alcohol sales) to even apply,” Holmes said, adding current city code doesn’t specify.

Bohle said Class II establishments require a monitoring plan to remain in compliance.

He presented committee members Julie Allesee, Tom Determann and Paul Gassman with data that showed the threat of underage drinking in Clinton. The city currently grants 23 Class I exemptions and 15 Class II. After studying locations with liquor permits, in 2012-2013, police found 14 compliance check violations out of 91 attempts — a 15.4 percent non-compliance rate.

The commander said he thinks 12:30 a.m. is too late for 18- to 20-year-olds to be at a bar.

“When officers go into an establishment, they have to look at time, age,” Bohle said. “Curfew for under age 14 is 10 p.m. For 14- to 17-year-olds it’s midnight. Now you look at the Class II exemption... it does get confusing.”

Rather than amend the permit guidelines, the committee decided to continue to gather more information on the matter and reconvene at its next meeting, March 4.

Holmes recently served on a coalition constructed to analyze the underage drinking scope in Clinton, the original source for both the wristband and the earlier curfew recommendations. While he acknowledged Legends receives more money for alcohol sales, Holmes is in favor of more classifications because it will separate Legends from bars targeting different crowds.

“If they drop the curfew back too far, some of my customers aren’t going to be allowed in there,” he said.

 

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