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Downtown Iowa City testing out open containers with a Saturday block party


Downtown Block Party

Downtown Iowa City — Saturday, June 24 at 5 p.m.

Photo by Alan Light via Flickr

In their most ambitious event yet, the Iowa City Downtown District is bringing together dozens of local businesses to throw a get-together spanning seven blocks and the Ped Mall in downtown Iowa City this Saturday, June 24. The city will try out a new policy allowing open containers of alcohol within the premises.

The Downtown Block Party will run from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. The event is all ages, and free to the public. Those 21 or older wishing to partake in libations may purchase a refillable cup — which is only the only open container allowed (no BYOC) and is only sanctioned to contain beer and wine (sorry, none of the hard stuff) — for $10 in advance of the event, or $15 that day.

“We want it to feel like one, big block party,” said Betsy Potter, the director of operations for the Downtown District.

Numerous activities will be set up. A sand volleyball court will be built on Dubuque Street, alongside other games like tetherball, jumbo-sized Jenga and ping-pong. There will be light painting and an interactive, collective mural project that anyone can contribute to. The Iowa City Public Library will stay open late until 10 p.m., hosting a video game tournament of Super Smash Brothers and free-to-play consoles with other Nintendo Classics, such as Super Mario, Mario Kart and others.

The block party is sure to be a boisterous one as well. Duelling pianos will be set up on Washington Street. There will be a DJ competition in the US Bank parking lot. Studio 13 will host a drag show prior to a fashion show featuring local designers and models. Live performances — including Caroline Smith, Elizabeth Moen and others — will run throughout the evening in the Ped Mall. Along with a whole bunch of other activities in the streets.

Downtown restaurants and bars will also be posting specials on the day of the block party. After 11 p.m. many bars will be hosting after parties with more live performances. A full list of events and times is available on the Downtown District’s website.

“We’re throwing an event at night to celebrate Iowa City’s restaurant, bar and nighttime economy,” Potter said. “We’re focusing on how fun Iowa City is for entertainment.”

A purchase of the licensed cup doesn’t mean free drinks; it’s a vessel that can be taken to all the businesses and activities. The special permits that Potter and the Downtown District obtained means that only this officially sanctioned cup falls under the allowed open-container laws.

Parking ramps downtown will also be offering free parking from 5 p.m. Saturday until 10:30 a.m. the following morning to encourage responsible consumption and safe rides home.

There were a lot of hoops to jump through for the Downtown District to obtain the liquor license and pass drams regulations. But with this block party as the trial run, downtown Iowa City may be able to feature open-carry drinks at festivals in the future, such as future Arts and Jazz fests. For the Downtown District, though, Potter said, the public’s reception towards this huge downtown shindig could set a course for annual block parties ahead.


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