Prefers a roundtable of bar owners
Owners of Malarky's are responding to a Storm Lake woman's statements made to the city council earlier this week, suggesting that the club is acting less than responsibly and that the council should ban all those under 21 years old from being in bars.
Jeannie Iordanou, who operates Malarky's with her husband Chris, said that she supports the community looking into ways to address binge drinking among young people, but that she felt having her establishment singled out at the council meeting by Susan Rice was "hurtful."
"We are celebrating our tenth anniversary in business next week, and in all that time, we have only once been charged with accidentally serving alcohol to a minor," she said.
The council was told that underage drinkers are using restrooms to wash off the markings put on their hands at the bars in order to get served. Iordanou said she doesn't believe that is true at her dance club, a popular gathering place for those of college age.
"We do mark minors with indelible ink, but we also mark those who are of age with a particular stamp, so that even if the younger people did wash off the X or M on their hands, they would not be served," she said.
Rice also criticized Malarky's for not holding more alcohol-free teen events, saying that decision was based on a desire to make more money. Iordanou said the club has in the past and will continue to offer weekly teen nights all summer and during school holiday breaks. "The reason we don't do it all year is that during school, we feel it would cut into time the kids should be spending at home with their homework," Iordanou said. "We do feel the teen nights are important because it gives them a place to go instead of hanging out in Chautauqua Park or whatever. Only teens are allowed in, the events are chaperoned, and all the alcohol is covered up."
At teen events, the club announces when it is time for the younger people to go home in order to comply with the city's curfew ordinance, she said. Any of the young people who leave the teen events are not allowed back in. "The community has expressed an appreciation for us having the teen nights," she said.
Rice had cited an incident in which someone she knew was reportedly threatened to be shot while trying to break up a fight at Malarky's. "We have had altercations, but we pay a lot of money to have a huge security staff on hand on the busy nights, and there is no reason for patrons to get involved and we don't want them to get involved," Iordanou responded.
She said she was not aware of the incident that Rice spoke to the council of. "We have metal detectors at the door that even car keys sometimes set it off, just like the airport."
City Councilman Denny Vaudt had proposed getting the liquor licensees in the city together for a discussion on ways to address youth drinking issues, and the Malarky's owners said they think that is a good idea.
"We care about every one of those kids who are our customers, and of course we want to prevent underage people from drinking - they are also a big liability situation in our business," Iordanou said.
Is youth drinking really a problem? The bar's owners are quick to admit that Rice is correct on that.
"I think drinking has really been glorified by our society. We need more responsibility," Iordanou said. "It isn't a Storm Lake problem - it's pretty much the same nationwide. Young people aren't going out to have a drink, they are going out to get stone cold drunk. Our society is all about doing everything to excess. These things like wanting to have 21 shots on their 21st birthday - I don't know where that is coming from."
Banning underage people from bars isn't going to solve that, she feels.
"If we lock out those people who are 18 to just under 21 from coming in with their friends, they are just going to get in their cars and drive to a town where they can get in, or they will drink in the suites at the college, or in private homes. What we will get is people on the roads driving back who shouldn't be."
On the other hand, many students at Buena Vista University have shown that they are responsible, she said. "We're a dance club. Plenty of students come in here and don't drink at all. I would say that 99 percent of those underage are not trying to drink, and the 1% that is, well, we don't think they are getting it from us."
Places like Malarky's will also suffer unfairly if city action is taken, she said. "We have a thriving restaurant, and people come for lunch and stand in line because the food is good." Having a complete ban would hurt food places that are paired with bars, she said.
"I think that the real solution starts at home, not at the bars," Iordanou concluded. "It's about information and education. If we can teach someone at age 18 how to go fight in Iraq, we need to figure out how to teach these young people to know when to say when."