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Governor’s order places restrictions on restaurants and bars — though some already had those steps in place

Published: Nov. 16, 2020 at 11:00 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Gov. Kim Reynolds' primetime announcement Monday night, highlighted by the news of a limited, statewide mask mandate, also included additional restrictions placed on Iowa restaurants and bars.

Starting Tuesday through at least Dec. 10, restaurants and bars must close to in-person or dine-in customers each night at 10 p.m. However, they are allowed to still offer carry-out, drive-through, or delivery service past that point. Those businesses must also require customers who aren’t seated to wear masks, which are required for any employees interacting with customers as well.

The proclamation extends a mandate issued last week for bars and restaurants to limit the number of people at a table to eight, unless they’re all part of the same household, and to ensure at least six feet of space between each group.

According to Monday’s order, these requirements also apply to wedding reception venues, wineries, breweries, distilleries, country clubs, and other social or fraternal clubs.

Sam Aossey, one of the owners of the Starlite Room in Cedar Rapids, said Reynolds' announcement was “a little bit of even a letdown.”

“I expected more drastic changes,” Aossey said. “Especially since she was coming out at 6 o’clock in the evening and making this big announcement.”

While the Starlite Room is typically known as a spot for hungry customers to grab a burger as late as 2:00 a.m., the northeast Cedar Rapids restaurant has been closing at 10:00 p.m. for the last few weeks in response to rising cases. Aossey said the one recent night the Starlite Room was open later, business was slow.

For Aossey’s restaurant, Reynolds' order won’t change much — if anything, he said the restaurant will need to enforce the requirement for customers to wear masks unless seated, but otherwise, it had already put most of the new mandates in place on its own. From what he has seen, Aossey said plenty of other restaurants in the Cedar Rapids area have independently been taking these steps, too, so he doesn’t think the new order will have a major impact.

The state’s new order also prohibits private parties at bars and restaurants with more than 15 people indoors and more than 30 people outdoors, regardless of how many people are seated at a table.

While those parties usually are a big part of the Starlite Room’s business this time of year, especially closer to the holidays, according to Aossey, he wasn’t expecting much demand for them this year because of the pandemic. But Aossey added that, from his point of view, it does make it easier when the governor makes black-and-white decisions like Monday’s instead of leaving interpretation up to the restaurants.

“We’re all limping around, limping right now, trying to figure out, does it make sense to stay open, are they going to shut us down?” Aossey said. “Without a lot of clear direction, we’re trying to make decisions that we think are in the best interests of our customers and our employees and ourselves, and sometimes, it’s a guessing game.”

Among the “drastic changes” he thought Reynolds would announce Monday, Aossey predicted she might prohibit dine-in service as she had earlier in the pandemic. While Reynolds didn’t do this, Aossey said the Starlite Room got through the previous carry-out-only period thanks to an abundance of customer support, so he wasn’t nervous about it potentially happening again.

“Hopefully anything that’s going to happen right now is short term, and what I mean by that is, maybe there’s light at the end of the tunnel, a couple months down the road, and so if she has to take more drastic measures until that happens, we’re in support of them,” Aossey said.

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