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Public health officials focusing on education as bars reopen for the second time

Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 10:52 PM CDT
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LINN COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG) -Bars, wineries and breweries in four counties were allowed to reopen for the second time starting Wednesday.

Haley Flenker owns Thew Brewing Company in Cedar Rapids. She says the announcement that she could reopen early surprised her, given how high case numbers are in Linn County. During both shutdowns, Thew Brewing Company has been selling drinks to-go, and while Flenker is excited to be open again, she says she hopes there’s more enforcement of safety regulations so she won’t have to close a third time. “I’m surprised it was reversed at all. I kind of expected more closures or an extension of the existing closures but that’s definitely something we have to be prepared for. Obviously the pandemic’s not going away anytime soon,” says Flenker.

Linn County Public Health says the department is getting a lot of complaints about businesses not following instructions, but its focus is educating businesses. Enforcement is up to the Alcoholic Beverages Division and local law enforcement according to Dustin Hinrichs, Food and Aquatic Branch Safety Manager with Linn County Public Health. He says even if bars and restaurants follow safety protocols, it can be risky to eat or drink indoors, and advises that people stay in small groups while going out, wear a mask, and stay outside when possible.

Hinrichs says it’s important to support local businesses during the pandemic, but that it’s equally important to stay safe, saying “Get to-go meals from your favorite restaurants and take them to a park somewhere...Try not to hang out at a bar forever, or a restaurant forever. The amount of time you spend indoors really does increase your chance of contracting the virus.”

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