Sunday, June 17, 2012

A special relationship

  Every weeknight, Kathy and I take Daisy and Baxter for a walk 3 blocks towards downtown and then we head north. One our way back, we pass an empty building right across the street from the Salvation Army building that used to house a local internet provider. The last couple of months there was a sign saying the area was planning on being rezoned with a number to call for questions.

  I had heard that a microbrewery wanted to open there I didn’t think too much about it. I thought that a brewery would just make beer and bring it to the bars where it would be consumed. This week I saw in the local paper that the rezoning had been approved and a microbrewery was going to be put in this building. I noticed in the article that the Salvation Army opposed the rezoning because the microbrewery would be selling beer to consumed on the premises and there was a prohibition on selling alcohol 300 feet from a church. As part of the rezoning, the prohibition was lifted and the project will be going forward.

  One of the big objections that the Salvation Army had to an establishment selling alcohol across the street from their building was that the Salvation Army hosts alcoholic and narcotics anonymous meetings and looking right at a bar after leaving the meeting was going to be a serious temptation to the people attending these meetings. And after reading some of the articles in the paper that I missed, this new business certainly seems more like a bar than a brewery. In an April newspaper article, the owner, Roger Brown said he was looking for a building “suitable for a small business that offers beer aficionados a place to sample different types of home-brewed beers.” Only time will tell if Brown will categorize Budweiser and Miller as ‘home-brewed beer’ or start staying open at night instead of his planned daytime schedule if business gets slow.

  There is a grocery store down the block form the Salvation Army building that sells beer and a full-fledged liquor store a block away from the proposed microbrewery so there are already plenty of nearby options for the AA and NA participants to hop off the wagon if they choose to. But to have a bar directly across from the Salvation Army parking lot seems a little much. And it’s not just the AA and NA crowd that will be so close to a bar. The Boy Scouts meet weekly at the building as well as the Head Start program and during the flu epidemic 2 years ago, hundreds of people come to the building to get the only free flu shots offered in Marshalltown. Just a few years ago, the Marshalltown Business Community was helping raise money for the Salvation Army to get matching funds for a huge addition for the building, but I suppose when there is a little tax money or prestige in luring a startup microbrewery to be had, anything goes.

A sampling of the alcohol opportunities within 3 blocks of the Salvation Army Building in Marshalltown:
Left : The Depot Liquor Store
Center : The Corner Tap bar, where the patrons gather outside to carpet the ground with cigarette butts
Right : The Center Street Station, where drinking is 'What We Do'!

  To be fair to the city council, the Central Business District was the only area in town that had the 300 foot limit in effect before it was repealed but the head of the Marshall Economic Development Impact Committee (MEDIC) Tom Deimerly was in full defense mode of the bar being so close to the Salvation Army building, noting that while the 300 foot restriction prevented alcohol from being sold near a church or school, there was nothing to prevent a church or school from opening within 300 feet of a business that sells alcohol. I don’t know what Deimerly’s stand on the separation of church and state is, but I know he is firmly against the separation of schools, churches, and alcohol. He may have a point. The grammar school I went to in Hillside, New Jersey was within 500 feet from the College Inn Bar & Grill. If it was any farther away many of my teachers like Mrs. Vernon and Mr. Guardino wouldn’t have been able to stagger back to sleep through the afternoon classes and countless lives were saved because they didn’t have to drive back from their liquid lunch. There is no word if Deimerly will be changing the I in MEDIC to stand for IMBECILE.

  This is only the latest chapter in Marshalltown and Iowa’s love affair with beer. The annual bike ride through Iowa, RAGBRAI is scheduled to stop in Marshalltown on July 25th and not only will the courthouse square be converted into a beer, ahem…beverage garden for the stopover, Marshalltown’s logo (complete with T-shirts) for the stopover is a Red Solo Cup inside a bicycle tire based on the drinking song by country star Toby Keith complete with the official slogan ‘Proceed to Party’. I’m sure the organizers aren’t promoting overuse of alcohol by the visiting bicyclists and when they talk about partying they’re planning some really mean games of ‘Twister’.

  In other Alcohol in Iowa news, the University of Iowa has inked a 4 year deal with Anhueser-Busch to allow the beer company to use the school’s Hawkeye logo on posters, flags, beer cups, and T-shirts. The use of the Tigerhawk logo will have to be accompanied by the phrase ‘Responsibility Matters’, which I assume will be very helpful in curbing the rampant binge drinking by Iowa college students and numerous public intoxication arrests of the Iowa football team. I’m sure when some college student on their 13th beer sees ‘Responsibility Matters’ on the beer can they’ll put their beer down and head to their dorm to study or look for some service opportunities. This is just an extension of an existing contract with the addition of the use of the logo and every other big time school (except for Brigham Young and a few others) have a similar deal in place. Iowa President Sally Mason said all proceeds from the beer deal will fund the university’s alcohol harm reduction plan to reduce binge drinking. I don’t suppose that banning alcohol from the campus ever entered the president’s consideration. Since the university must approve all uses of their logo, I hope they will draw the line at a giant bucket of beer with the logo on the bottom that can only be seen when the bucket’s contents are consumed!

Judging from this early morning picture, my neighbors may be starting their own microbewery!
I don't see any Hawkeye logos -- they must be Cyclone fans!