Unimpaired Dry Bar closes in Iowa City

A popular dry bar in Iowa City’s bustling downtown, known for its vibrant college bar scene, has recently closed its doors, leaving students with limited options for a social environment without alcohol.

Unimpaired, situated at 125 E. Burlington St., has been a popular venue for various events at the University of Iowa, including On Iowa! week activities and fraternity and sorority parties. The venue also held events for the Sober Living Recovery Home and various programs aimed at supporting individuals in their journey to overcome alcohol addiction.

“I was disappointed to hear they had closed,” stated Merrilee Ramsey, President of Sober Living. During the early stages of sobriety, individuals in recovery tend to steer clear of places that serve alcohol, as being in such establishments can potentially trigger cravings. There are only a few restaurants that meet those specific requirements, excluding fast food and takeout options.

The owner of Unimpaired, Amber Haines, and other staff members did not provide a comment when contacted by The Daily Iowan. Haines initiated the business with the intention of assisting students and other individuals in avoiding the influence of peer pressure to consume alcohol during social outings.

A new social space has been created to cater to those seeking late-night activities without the presence of alcohol. The founder of this establishment questioned why such a place did not already exist, prompting them to create a space where people can socialize and have fun without the need for alcoholic beverages. In 2021, Haines informed the DI. The Unimpaired locations in the Quad Cities and Cedar Rapids have also closed, in addition to its Iowa City bar.

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The reason behind the closure of Unimpaired remains uncertain, but Johnson County Public Health has revealed that the establishment’s license had expired.

Even with the closure, there are still alternative options available for residents seeking a safe environment without alcohol. A “mocktail crawl” is currently being sponsored by the Iowa City Downtown District, featuring participation from various bars in the downtown area. The event will run until the end of January.

In a recent statement, Ramsey mentioned that Sober Living is considering ways to assist students, who are not typically their target demographic. “Our residents primarily fall within the 30 to 50 age range,” Ramsey stated. “However, as we are in the early stages, we may consider establishing a residence for students seeking a sober environment.”

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