One Last Call for Alcohol


  1. Home
  2. Education
  3. Legally Speaking
  4. One Last Call For Alcohol

February 2008

Closing time - time for you to go out, go out into the world... turn up the lights over every girl and every boy... one last call for alcohol, so finish your whiskey or beer... you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

-Closing Time by Semisonic

2 AM: the customers are gone and the lights are up. Time to count the cash and begin cleaning up. But first, wind down by grabbing a “cool tall one.” Not so fast!

I. Prohibited Hours

Legal hours of sale apply to licensees, management and employees and provide that liquor, wine and beer may not be sold, served or consumed on a licensed premise in Iowa between the hours of 2 AM and 6 AM, Monday through Saturday. Prohibited hours on Sundays fall between 2 AM and 8 AM.

Alcohol can only be sold on Sundays by a licensee with a Sunday Sales Privilege during legal hours of sale. The Privilege increases the basic license fee by 20%. However, without the Sunday Sales Privilege, selling, serving and consuming alcohol in a licensed establishment, at any time, is prohibited.

In order to ensure that alcohol is not consumed on a licensed premise outside the legal hours of sale, licensees may give patrons a “last call” notice to inform customers that the selling, serving and consuming of alcoholic beverages is about to end.  Although the time may vary depending upon the size of the establishment, a good time for “last call” is typically 30 minutes prior to the conclusion of legal hours of sale at 2 AM.

Licensees are encouraged to station an employee at the door to ensure patrons do not leave with a drink in hand. As a precautionary measure, the employee must remove and empty all glasses containing alcohol from the serving areas before 2 AM.  

II. Enforcement

Law enforcement officials monitor licensed establishments to ensure alcohol is not sold during prohibited hours. A criminal citation will be issued if law officials find the licensee, employees or patrons imbibing in a licensed establishment during that time.

Licensees must grant law enforcement access to the licensed premises - without a search warrant - regardless of time of day if licensees, employees or patrons are in the establishment. If the establishment delays or fails to allow officers to enter, it may result in an additional citation of “interference with official acts.”

Under Iowa law, the attempt to destroy liquid while in the presence of an officer or while an officer is searching the premises is competent evidence the liquid is an alcoholic beverage intended for unlawful purposes.  Any attempt to destroy evidence by pouring or hiding drinks before letting enforcement officials into the establishment will only make matters worse.

III. Sanctions

The violation of selling, serving or allowing the consumption of alcoholic beverages on the licensed premises during prohibited hours is a simple misdemeanor crime, punishable by a criminal fine of $50 to $500. Penalties may include imprisonment for a period up to 30 days in lieu of, or in addition to, a fine.

In most cases, criminal violations trigger administrative sanctions against the licensee. Sanctions may be in the form of a civil penalty up to $1,000 per violation and suspension or revocation of the license.  While after-hours violations generally bring a $500 civil penalty or a 7-day license suspension, aggravated circumstances, such as failure to cooperate with law enforcement officials, will warrant more severe punishment. Penalties are also increased when the licensee has previous violations of the same nature