KCRG-TV Examines Iowa City Drinking Trends After New Ordinance Takes Effect

On the heels of Iowa City, Iowa’s newly-instituted 21-only bar ordinance, KCRG-TV’s Jami Brinton talked to local business owners about trends in drinking over the past decade.  What she found shows a disturbing move toward binge drinking that is fueled by a shift away from beer and toward hard liquor among young drinkers. In some instances, the potential dangers of this shift are exacerbated by the fact that bars tend to make higher profits selling mixed drinks, encouraging bar owners to run specials on liquor.

One local bar owner, Leah Cohen, said that local establishments often report selling “85 percent alcohol and 15 percent beer.” She theorized that alcohol pricing has helped drive this trend: “To get a keg of beer now is probably about one hundred dollars, you have deposits, those sorts of things,” she said. “You can still buy a bottle of Vodka for 8 dollars in the store.”

Cohen offered a proposal that might help drinkers control their consumption if they decide to drink liquor: impose regulations on bar owners that would standardize the amount of alcohol offered in mixed drinks. Tanya Villhauer, a health coordinator at the University of Iowa, said she thinks this proposal could help customers keep closer track of the amount of alcohol they’ve consumed over the course of a given night: “I definitely think that should be something that is looked at and standardized across the board because then students who are choosing to drink know what they’re getting in that particular drink,” she said.

What do you think of this proposal? Opponents of the 21-only bar ordinance, including a group called Yes to Entertaining Students Safely, are gaining momentum to repeal the new law: they’ve gathered 3,500 signatures in support of repeal, and the City Council can reverse the ordinance or put it on the ballot in November.

Leave your feedback on this debate in the comments.

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2 Responses to “KCRG-TV Examines Iowa City Drinking Trends After New Ordinance Takes Effect”

  1. Marshall Says:

    For over a decade, Leah Cohen has been one of the most active, thoughtful, residents of Iowa City. She’s also been consistently shut out of serving on the Iowa City council where she would do a world of good. I love Iowa, and I love Iowa City, but the very definition of head-in-the-sand, bandaid-on-a-bullet-wound thinking is the Iowa City council. Their efforts to increase punitive damages associated with alcohol violations and restrict access have done nothing to decrease drinking and driving, binge drinking, and violence in downtown Iowa City.

  2. Edwin Says:

    The drinking age must be lowered to 18 along with education and its important components. It’s a good idea for bars to standardize restrictions on the sale of beer to make sure people aren’t harmed because they went to a bar. I condemn the Iowa City council for passing a law which is ageist in every aspect for prohibiting adults of 18-20 from entering bars. I applaud Yes to Entertaining Students Safety for gathering petitions so that the ageist city council can repeal that horrible law this year or next year.