While Iowa City residents are voting on whether to keep under age people out of bars, a northern Iowa city is changing its ordinance to allow them in. Forest City, the home of Waldorf College, is changing its ordinance to allow 18-year-olds into bars. One year ago at this time Waldorf College — which sits one block off Forest City’s main street– was struggling and about to close before being sold to the for-profit on-line Columbia Southern University.
Waldorf’s Dean of Students, Jason Ramaker, says the change in Forest City’s liquor ordinance gives them more options for entertainment to sell students on the school. “Waldorf College is a very small college in a very small town,” Ramaker says. He says they from students who say ‘there’s not enough to do or they wish there was going on in town.
Ramaker says the change in the ordinance is a recruiting tool for the college. “Certainly from a retention and recruitment standpoint, it’s always nice to be able to feature the community that your in and say, hey there is a lot going on, we’ve got movie theatres, we’ve got bowling alleys, we’ve got great restaurants, but we also have some interesting nightlife that you can partake in, even as a freshman,” Ramaker says.
Ramaker says the change in the ordinance is an economic development issue and the ordinance change improves safety for Waldorf’s 640 students. On the other side of the issue in Iowa City — home of the state’s largest college — voters are deciding whether to retain the ordinance that keeps people under 21 out of bars.
Those in support of keeping the ordinance have outraised the student-led effort to throw it out by $24,000. Nick Westergaard leads the “21 makes sense” effort and says the students are tough opponents. Westergaard says,”There’s a large student vote that we’re really needing the community to come out and protect the ordinance.”
But student organizer Matt Pfaltzgraf says he’s not worried that they’ve been outspent, as he says thousands of students have already voted early. “We’ve got 7,000 votes in the bank, you know, beat us, you know,” Pfaltzgraf says. County officials say there may be a record turnout of 18 to 24 year olds in an off-year election.
The ordinance’s supporters say it’s needed to curb binge drinking among students. Critics say the new law has merely pushed underage drinkers out of downtown bars and into unsupervised house parties.