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Lynn M. Walding, Administrator


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 e - NEWS

January 30, 2004





1. Third Base Helps Vieux Carre Pack 'em In

2. MEXICO: Price Drop Should See Tequila Kick In

3. City Considers Alcohol in Park

4. Alcohol Merchants Targeted in Iraq

5. Cigarette Tax Plan Burns Iowa Smokers


1. Third Base Helps Vieux Carre Pack 'em In


All-you-can-drink buffets were all the rage back in 2001, and leading the pack was Vieux Carre, 1720 25th St., West Des Moines.  While the promotion was a success, public sentiment turned against binge drinkers, and Waukee, West Des Moines and Clive banned such specials.  The bar closed in March 2002, reopening later that summer under new ownership and no drink buffet. Then things seemed to get quiet for awhile. Without endless booze, there was no way the place could survive, right?


By Joe Lawler, Des Moines Register
January 29, 2004








On weekends the parking lot is still packed at Vieux Carre, but maybe not for the reason you would expect.

"A lot of it has to do with Third Base," said manager Colin Caffrey.

The sports bar is adjacent to Vieux Carre, they share an entrance, and it was packed last Saturday night.

"A lot of people come over to this side first, then head over to the nightclub later," Caffrey said.

Third Base shows sports, sports programs, sports-related activities and even bowling on 30 TVs encircling the bar. Like most sports bars there are pool tables and Golden Tee machines, but there is also a full-size basketball hoop, which could be handy for bar bets.

The Vieux Carre side seemed a bit sparse until 11:30 p.m. or so, until dancers started to pour in from the sports bar. A lot of the dance floor space has been taken up by tables, which helps keep the dance floor packed.

Club-goers ranged from the spandex-clad to jeans and t-shirts, with a few cowboy hats thrown in for good measure. Refreshingly, most of the 20-something patrons seemed to be actual 20-somethings, not "I just turned 21 and I'm drinking 'til I puke."

Vieux Carre and Third Base both feature full bars, and while all-you-can-drink is out, large sizes are still in style. The Vieux Carre bar features The Love Witch Doctor, 60 ounces of alcohol for $13. It also features nine Slurpee-style frozen drinks, from the traditional frozen margarita to the Fat Jimmy and Triple By-Pass.

If there is a downside, it's that if you don't intend to go dancing, you still have to pay cover just to get into Third Base on weekends. If there are no big games or bands that night, the extra expense is hard to justify.

Brad Seidenfeld will perform Friday night. Saturday will include a "The Big Game" pregame tailgate party from 8 p.m.-midnight. For the Superbowl Third Base will have "The Big Football Game" party with free pizza from 3 p.m. to kickoff, $2 tallboys and prizes. Call 221-2317.




2. MEXICO: Price Drop Should See Tequila Kick In

Editorial staff - Just-drinks.com

January 29, 2004

Tequila prices in Mexico should fall this year. The president of Mexico’s National Chamber of Tequila Industry, Eduardo Orendain, said earlier this week that prices for the spirit should decrease by 25% year-on-year in 2004. Orendain credits the potential fall to the decrease in prices of agave, the main material for tequila production, and its greater availability on the market.

Agave has been in short supply in the past two years, leading to an increase in prices and a decrease in consumption and production. Mexico’s production of tequila fell last year to 140m litres from 191m litres in 1999, as the price of agave soared to 16 pesos per kilogram. Prices in 2004 are expected to be between 3 pesos and 5 pesos.

Tequila production has steadily fallen in the last four years, while Mexico’s 2003 tequila consumption fell by 27% year-on-year.



3. City Considers Alcohol in Park

By Vanessa Miller - Iowa City Press-Citizen

January 30, 2004

To brew, or not to brew? Festival wants to serve

IOWA CITY, IA -- Riverside Theatre's Shakespeare Festival has become a regular part of Iowa City's summertime entertainment, and organizers want to add something new for next season - alcohol.

The proposed concession addition comes in response to last season's low turnout. Officials said in a Jan. 22 letter to City Manager Steve Atkins that continuation of the annual festival is in jeopardy because of the struggling economy and federal and state funding cuts.

"Due to cutbacks in funding from federal and state agencies, and the general economic downturn of the past two years, it is essential that Riverside Theatre find additional funding streams in order to sustain the operation of the Shakespeare Festival," said Riverside Theatre artistic directors Jody Hovland and Ron Clark in the letter. "While this new line of concessions will only be one part of the necessary income, we feel strongly that it is an essential component toward stabilizing this popular summer event."

The only problem is that city code makes it illegal to possess and consume alcohol on city property. The festival stage is in City Park. And Mayor Ernie Lehman, while sympathetic and wanting the festival to continue, said he suspects the council will turn down the request.

"I think it's going to be extremely difficult, if at all possible, to permit Riverside Theatre's serving alcohol and prohibit everyone else from doing it," he said Thursday, noting the park's proximity to student housing, fraternities and sororities. "I'm very skeptical ... I don't know how we can do it."

The City Council will consider the request at its informal meeting Monday.

Last August, officials with Riverside Theatre, the 23-year-old non-profit company that sponsors the summer festival, announced the need to raise $100,000 to avoid ending the year in debt. While donations topped $125,000, theater operators cut another $100,000 from this year's budget so donations would not again become necessary.

According to officials with the city's Parks and Recreation Department, adding alcohol to the festival's concession menu could strengthen its finances and increase turnout, which was lower than anticipated last year.

"Shakespeare Festivals in other parts of the country customarily provide concessions, including alcoholic beverages," according to the Jan. 14 Parks and Recreation concession policy proposal.

According to the Parks and Recreation proposal, changing the rule by ordinance would allow "festival sponsors to offer an amenity enhancing the quality of experience to their patrons."

Suggested restrictions of the ordinance:

• Officials would define an area around the theater where alcohol sales would be allowed. No alcohol could be brought into or taken out of the area by theater patrons.

• Venders could only sell wine and beer on a one-serving-at-a-time basis in a disposable plastic container.

• Only patrons with a ticket for the event could purchase alcohol.

• Sales could only occur 90 minutes prior to the start and during 20-minute intermissions.

• Riverside Theatre would provide insurance to cover both the exposure to themselves as well as the city.

• The theater company would obtain necessary licenses and permits.

• Sales would be strictly limited to avoid sales to minors.


4. Alcohol Merchants Targeted in Iraq
By Matthew Rosenberg, Associated Press

January 19, 2004


AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Iranian Kurdish smugglers unload cases of alcohol from a pickup truck before riding over the border to Iran from Iraq earlier this month.

BASRA, Iraq -- By most accounts, Sameer got off easy - the 42-year-old Christian liquor merchant received only a warning from the masked men who waved Kalashnikov rifles in his face and trashed his house in search of booze.

Others weren't as lucky. Abid Slewa was shot in the head as he unlocked the front door of his liquor store. Bashir Elias, caught selling alcohol from the back of his car, was shot to death Christmas Eve on a street crowded with cheering onlookers.

The sale and consumption of alcohol is legal in secular Iraq, even if many Iraqis avoid it for religious reasons. But as many as nine liquor store owners, most of them Christians, have been killed in Basra since the fall of Saddam Hussein in April, according to merchants.

The slayings have raised concerns within the U.S.-led coalition about the prospects for a tolerant and democratic society emerging in a region dominated by increasingly powerful - and conservative - Shiite Muslim clerics.

British officials and Iraqi police say they have no firm figures on the numbers of people killed for selling alcohol, although they acknowledge such killings have occurred.

The officials and those who have been threatened believe extremists from Basra's resurgent Shiite majority are behind the murders.

"There is an element emerging in the Shiite community that does bear arms, that may be violent," coalition spokesman Dominic D'Angelo said. "People are feeling threatened, and not without reason."

However, he cautioned that "there are lots of different groups emerging right now."

Basra's leading Shiite clerics deny any involvement in the killings. But they do acknowledge that their supporters have been warning people not to buy, drink or sell alcohol, which is banned under Islam.

"These liquor shop owners, we talk to them and tell them that by selling alcohol they are injuring the whole community, bringing shame on all of us," said Sheik Abu Salaam, the Basra representative of hard-line cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Under Islamic law, repeat offenders eventually would be put to death, he said.

"But we cannot harm them here ... it is against the law of Iraq," he said.

Shiites - who comprise 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million people and are especially dominant in the south - were harshly repressed under Saddam's Sunni-dominated government.

But influential Shiite clerics, including many who unabashedly support imposing Islamic law in Iraq, like al-Sadr and Salaam, have gained considerable power. The influence of the top clerics is clear throughout the south, where posters bearing their images have replaced the once-omnipresent face of Saddam.

With the new faces have come a new set of fears.

Besides the murders, dozens of liquor stores owned by Christians have been torched in recent months.

Women in Basra, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad, say they have been admonished by angry men for leaving home without a headscarf.

"If I leave my house with my head bare, people shout at me - they yell 'whore,'" said Aida Wahid, a 41-year Christian who owns a beauty salon.

Men tell of being stopped at intersections by gangs of Islamic activists and ordered to shut off music.

Basra has remained a largely peaceful oasis in Iraq, with attacks against coalition forces focused in the Sunni-dominated area north and west of Baghdad.

But the city's once-thriving, albeit small, bar and club scene has practically vanished. Saddam closed bars in a bid to win the religious establishment's support following Iraq's defeat in the 1991 Gulf War, but alcohol was sold legally in shops. Residents said some bars continued to operate discreetly even after Saddam's ban.

"We're living in a new Iraq," said Sameer, the liquor store owner, who spoke on condition that only his first name be used.

His shop was just down the street from Slewa's, the man shot in the head as he opened his store in May.

"Right after Saddam fell, men started coming by and telling us to stop selling alcohol," he said.

Slewa's murder was the last warning Sameer needed.

"I haven't opened up since," he said.

He now works as a driver for an American company in Basra.


5. Cigarette Tax Plan Burns Iowa Smokers

By Tim Paluch - Des Moines Register

January 28, 2004


DES MOINES, IA -- Chris Snider, lit cigarette in hand, walked into The Smoke Shop on Des Moines' southeast side and asked for a carton of the "cheapest full-flavor 100s you have."

He was handed a carton of The Brave. The cigarettes were $13.99, less than $15 with tax.

If Gov. Tom Vilsack's plan to raise the state cigarette tax is approved by the Iowa Legislature, Snider will pay more than $20 for the same carton.

"Outrageous. That's cutting into our expenses even more," Snider said.

Vilsack, as part of a $4.77 billion budget plan, wants to raise the state's cigarette tax from 36 cents to 96 cents per pack. The tax increase would generate about $108 million the first year.

Studies show that any bump in the tax would fall hardest on low-income Iowans such as Snider and his family. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that almost half of all tobacco purchases are made by households with annual incomes of $30,000 or less. Fewer than a quarter of sales come from households with incomes more than $50,000.

Vilsack says his proposal protects the pockets of the poor because it couples the higher cigarette tax with a long-term decrease in the state sales tax.

Vilsack said that by expanding the state sales tax to 17 additional services, such as engineering, accounting, public relations and computer programming, lawmakers would be able to lower the 5 percent rate to 4.75 percent in 2006, and to 4.25 percent in 2008.

"When you reduce the sales tax by 15 percent, you end up reducing" taxes on the poor, he said. "When you combine the increases and compare it to the decreases, there's a net decrease in taxes."

Snider, 39, said he doesn't look down the road at 2006 or 2008. He can't afford to. Money is tight. He's got a child on the way, his third in three years.

"Some families are like mine. They got a budget, they know what their expenses are," he said. "Even just six bucks, that's two gallons of milk for my kids."

Thirty-three states have passed cigarette tax increases. Iowa's per-pack rate ranks 39th in the nation. A 96-cent tax would move it up the list to 18th-highest. New Jersey leads the pack at $2.05. The lowest rate is in Virginia, at 2.5 cents. The national median is 60 cents.

Adam Deemer, a smoker for 17 years who works at JC's Corner Store in Waukee, said any increase in cigarette prices is an annoyance, but he predicted that smokers would do one of two things: pay the extra cash or find cheaper places to get their smokes.

That's what worries folks at The Smoke Shop, 1918 S.E. 14th St.

Manager Kelly Evans said he's lost about 20 customers who now buy their cigarettes on the Internet from American Indian reservations and online discount stores in Southern states.

A tax increase, Evans said, would put him and his customers - many of whom are low-income, blue-collar workers - in a bind.

"If you make $75,000 a year and you smoke, yeah, you're not going to like that a carton costs an extra six bucks, but you'll pay it," he said. "If you make $15,000 a year, well, that's a different story."

Ben Heintzleman, who works at the store, said he sees "people scrounging for change as it is."

"I said I was going to quit when it went up to two bucks a pack," Heintzleman said. "I'm still smoking."

Iowa legislators haven't exactly warmed to Vilsack's budget proposal.

"Most members of the Democratic Party remain skeptical of a tax increase," said Senate Minority Leader Michael Gronstal, a Council Bluffs Democrat.

State policy-makers will have about the same amount of money to spend in fiscal 2005 as they did in fiscal 2004. Vilsack said that translates into a $336 million shortfall because of the state's commitments for spending increases. The shortfall comes following three consecutive years of budget cuts.

House Majority Leader Chuck Gibb, a Decorah Republican, said GOP lawmakers won't support a cigarette tax increase this year.

"We've heard the minority party say they're not interested in increasing taxes," Gibb said. "We're not going to have our members vote for something like that when the minority party has said it will vote it down.

"We don't want to have it be used as a political issue against us."

Vilsack said it's too early to predict whether his tax proposal will survive the Legislature.

"They haven't taken a hard look at the numbers, at the plan and what the state will need to do this year," he said.

Gibb said leaders in other states have warned him that cigarette taxes do little to raise revenue.

"People will buy their cigarettes by going over to border states or on the Internet," he said.

If enough people stop smoking, revenue from Iowa's cigarette tax, which includes money from many smokers in border states with higher taxes, could decrease.

Vilsack sees it differently.

If people stop smoking, the state saves money, he said. Revenue from cigarettes nets the state about $88 million annually, while the state spends $235 million on health care costs related to smoking, Vilsack said.

"That's a big difference being paid out, and that doesn't include the loss of productivity or private-sector costs for health-related expenses," he said. "This is a way to deal with a more troubling issue. We are faced with 39,000 layoffs in our schools."

The tax-increase proceeds, he said, would go to the Senior Living Trust Fund, which provides senior citizens with alternatives to nursing homes. Vilsack also slated $42.7 million more for Medicaid, a $1.5 million increase for children's health insurance, $500,000 more for tobacco abuse prevention and $1 million for mobile dental checkups for children and the elderly.

With the tax increase, the state estimates that about 31,000 children would probably never start smoking, and 3.5 percent of adult smokers would give it up.

"At the end of the day, that would mean about 12,000 or 13,000 premature deaths would be avoided," Vilsack said.

For those who don't stop or can't stop, 60 cents a pack will add up.

Mary Raymond, a 47-year-old smoker whose job is to help disadvantaged families, said cigarettes are an easy target for politicians trying to fix past budget mistakes.

Prices "are high enough now," said Raymond, who has tried to quit smoking in the past. "I thought I would quit when they went up the last time."

She doubts that a 96-cent tax would help her quit.

"I don't think I could, but it'll make me scrounge a little more, that's for sure," she said.

Smoking studies

* A U.S. surgeon general's report in 1997 "clearly shows tobacco's increasing grip on racial and ethnic minorities . . . and underscores the need for . . . a significant price increase and a plan to dramatically reduce youth tobacco use."

* Low-income black women smoke at a significantly higher rate than the general population of women, according to a Medical College of Georgia study.

·         Smoking prevalence is higher among those with nine to 11 years of education (35.4 percent) compared with those with more than 16 years of education (11.6 percent). It's highest among persons living below the poverty level (33.3 percent). - National Center for Health Statistics.