A bill designed to shut down bars that are a “public safety nuisance” more quickly has cleared the Iowa House. Republican Representative Ross Paustian of Walcott said the bill is a response to incidents in Davenport, Des Moines and Council Bluffs.
“The incident in Davenport that I’m most familiar with is a bar in downtown Davenport where they had shots fired. They had several fights, but over a three year period from 2017 to 2019 they had 2031 calls for service and extra patrols,” Paustian said. “The bar only closed after the landlord terminated the lease.”
The bill establishes a legal avenue for city and county officials to immediately get a district court order to yank a bar’s liquor license if there have been frequent riots, fights or gunfire at the business. Losing that liquor license effectively closes the bar.
Representative Cindy Winckler, a Democrat from Davenport, said across the border in Illinois, local officials can suspend a bar’s liquor license indefinitely.
“In many cases, if their license has been suspended in Illinois, they just come over to Iowa knowing that it’s a much more different situation to have bad actors, who happen to have a liquor license, to have that license suspended,” Winckler said.
Under current rules, an Iowa bar owner may appeal to the state Alcoholic Beverages Division if a city or county revokes their liquor license. The bar stays open during that appeal process. The bill to change that passed on a 74-19 vote and now goes to the Senate for consideration.