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Union Bar Becomes Entertainment Venue

IOWA CITY, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) -- The Union Bar will now be able to admit 19-and-20-year-olds at the door as Iowa City's newest entertainment venue. As long as The Union follows certain rules, underage patrons will be allowed in for live shows. 
This comes just months after voters upheld the city's 21-only ordinance, which originally prohibited 19-and-20-year-olds from staying in bars after 10 p.m. in 2010. Exceptions were made for entertainment venues last year, however, as the city said those venues are an important part of Iowa City culture. 
The bar is already advertising for one of its first shows, the Blackout Barstool Tour happening on March 8. 
The bar got psyched online, too, Tweeting, "We are very excited to announce that starting this Friday The Union will be 19 ALL NIGHT every Friday and Saturday. #gamechanger". 

That's partially true -- if the bar has a band of live act on every Friday and Saturday. The exception "only applies to days in which they're having a show. So, on other nights, if there's no show, then they're just another bar, and all the same rules apply," said assistant city attorney Eric Goers. 
The Union Bar owner George Witgraff helped lead the charged against the 21-only ordinance in November, but failed. The entertainment venue exception may look like a loophole to some, but not others. 
"I think they're going about it the right way. They're trying to turn it into a different venue than they've been in the past," said city council member Kingsley Botchway. 
But it certainly opens the door for any bar to add its name to the lineup of entertainment venues, after doing some serious leg work. 
Entertainment venues are required to: 
  • Have a permanent stage
  • Have a professional light and sound setup
  • Reserve half of the door revenue for the performer, and
  • Host live shows on at least 150 nights during the year 
In terms of enforcing the drinking age, entertainment venues are held to higher standards, If they have more than one sale of alcohol to a minor in five years, they go back to being a bar only. 
"We would welcome new entertainment venues if new venues wanted to come to town, and that's why we set up the ordinance to allow for that," Goers said. 
The city hopes it only adds to the culture downtown. 
"You know, making this a place or a destination for people to stay, live, and work after they graduate, as well," Botchway said. 

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