Anyone under the legal age of 21 who’s caught in an Iowa City bar after 10 o’clock at night is now facing a hefty fine of $735. It’s one way the city is trying to enforce the 21-only bar ordinance the city council passed last year.
Elliot Higgins, the University of Iowa student liaison to the city council, says the fine is unfortunate and unfair. “You don’t have to be drinking in order to be hit with this fine,” Higgins says. “You just have to be in the bar after 10 P.M.”
The U-of-I student government is asking the city council to consider cutting the fine in half. Higgins says another option would be to use a different fine structure that would gradually increase the amount per citation for students under 21 caught in a bar.
“A student will still be looking at approximately $500 for being in a bar underage,” Higgins says. “I feel like that would be deterrent enough.” The ticket for just being in a bar underage is $500. Add another $175 surcharge plus $60 in court fees and students are slapped with a grand total of a $735 fine.
Some students see the large fine as an outrage, like Justin Caler, a senior at the U-of-I. “It’s crazy,” Caler says. “It wasn’t like that two, three years ago. I just really don’t think it’s right at all.” Will Lemmon is the manager of a downtown Iowa City bar called Graze and says he’s okay with the ordinance and the fine.
“If you’re not willing to pay a $735 fine, you should obey the law and not be in a bar after 10 P.M.,” Lemmon says. He says business is booming since the ordinance took effect and Lemmon says a big fine is the best way to ensure underage students stay out of the bars at night.
Iowa City police wrote 24 of the $735 dollar citations in February. Higgins says he’s planning to present his proposal for a lower fine, which also includes a possibility for community service instead of fines, to the city council.
By Jillian Petrus, KCRG, Cedar Rapids