By Kit Fitzgerald
Carrying open drinks around downtown Iowa City was prohibited until Tuesday when the Iowa City City Council amended the Open Container Ordinance.
City Manager Geoff Fruin said the ordinance amendment, which passed 7-0, would allow a patron to leave one
licensed premised area and go into another licensed premised area with an open container, which is not currently allowed by city code.
Fruin said they are trying to accommodate community events, such as the Downtown Block Party planned for June 24. At the event, people will be allowed to take a drink from a bar or a restaurant and immediately walk to the street, which will be a controlled beer garden type of area.
“Actually, the sidewalk and street will be a licensed premise as well,” Fruin said. “So this isn’t anything that would apply except in very specific, special events and cases that the council would have the authority to authorize.”
Downtown District Executive Director Nancy Bird said this event will show off the vibrant community by engaging a wide range of people.
“The night event for June 24 is something that will happen from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., so it is the nighttime hours, but it’s intended to be a block party for the entire community to come down to do games and just enjoy yourself on the street with your wine,” Bird said. “And that is where we need this special exception for people to leave a bar or a restaurant that will serve the alcohol.”
Mayor Jim Throgmorton said the limited aspect of this amendment was good.
“I’m chair of the Partnership for Alcohol Safety so I take anything having to do with alcohol very seriously … but this is narrowly constrained in time and place …” Throgmorton said. “I feel confident it’s going to go really well.”
Bird also said the event will promote local and small businesses, as well as downtown as a whole.
“We will not have vendors [sell alcohol],” she said. “[Attendees] will go in and out of the businesses, they can go in and out of retail, in and out of any place that promotes the downtown.”
Councilor Kingsley Botchway said he is excited about the support for small businesses as well as how broadly the event will include the whole community.
“I think this can be something for a lot of people,” Botchway said. “They can come down and access it in a meaningful way.”
Botchway also said he supports of the New Orleans vibe coming from people walking around with beer and wine.
Bird said the event is still responsible and family-oriented. Both Bird and Botchway plan on bringing their children.
“It’s a growing trend,” Bird said. “And I think we’re in a good position to start managing it as an asset instead of fearing it and wondering what to do with it.”