Johnson County bar owner hopeful patrons, owners follow Covid-19 rules upon reopening

Published: Oct. 4, 2020 at 10:02 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - At midnight on Sunday, October 4th, bars in both Johnson and Story counties can reopen. That’s after a proclamation by Governor Reynolds ordered bars closed in six Iowa Counties, but Johnson and Story County’s closures lasted weeks longer, due to spikes in coronavirus cases.

“I have over 50 people that I employ and the extra unemployment benefits have run out by now, and so they are struggling," Jason Zeman said.

Zeman owns multiple downtown Iowa City bars. He’s happy to be back in business.

“There is no alternative because without government assistance, basically as a business owner, we have to operate or otherwise we are going to go out of business and our employees won’t have a place to work,” he said.

Before the shutdown, Zeman voluntarily operated at half capacity, required masks and added barriers between tables. However, he said some other bars were lax on following rules and recommendations.

“While there were operators that were doing their darndest to purchase PPE, keep their employees safe, keep their customers safe, there were other business that faltered,” Joe Reilly, Iowa City Nighttime Mayor said.

Reilly said ahead of reopening, there is a pledge for bars and patrons, one that asks everyone to follow certain Covid-19 related safety measures. He said it clarifies things like when and where to wear a mask.

“This is another opportunity to show outwardly to the community what they are promising to do and it also lets the community say, ‘I am seeing you are pledging to this, but I walked inside, and I am seeing this’, and have that conversation and really work as a community, a community type self-check,” Reilly said.

Riley said even though some bars didn’t get it right the first time, he believes in second chances. While Zeman said it may not be a second chance, but hopefully lessons learned for some.

“I think a lot of people don’t want to see this happen again, so they will hopefully enforce the rules and follow the rules,” Zeman said.

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