Pandemic limits traditionally busy night before Thanksgiving for bars

Published: Nov. 25, 2020 at 10:52 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Once a year, robes are the outfit du jour at Iowa Brewing Company in Cedar Rapids.

In 2020, that day fell on Wednesday.

“It’s our Cousin Eddie release party,” Craig Stephan, one of Iowa Brewing Company’s founders, said. “Normally, it’d be on Thanksgiving morning, but everything’s different this year, so we had to cancel that.”

Cousin Eddie, the character from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation who is dressed in a robe and trooper hat in one of the film’s more notable and quotable scenes, is the namesake for the Cedar Rapids microbrewery’s imperial brown ale, “Cousin Eddie’s Breakfast Ale,” rereleased each fall.

Iowa Brewing Company’s taproom has recently been closed on Wednesdays, but its staff decided to open to customers this Wednesday, the night before Thanksgiving, because it is typically one of their most profitable days of the entire year.

“Oh, it’s generally very busy,” Stephan said. “I think all the bars and restaurants expect that to be one of their top two or three nights of the year, and of course, none of them can have it this year.”

That means this year, Iowa Brewing Company had to consolidate two of its busiest days — the night before Thanksgiving, followed by its Thanksgiving Day Cousin Eddie party — into one night that’s as busy as it’s allowed and safe to be.

On Wednesday evening, groups of a few people sat in socially distanced spaces in the taproom, and customers were only allowed to drink if they were seated at a table.

“Of course, we’re all six feet apart, so normally, it’d be full in here, but we’re all making do with this pandemic going on,” Stephan said.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions mandated by Gov. Kim Reynolds’ latest emergency proclamation, all bars and restaurants across the state also have to close to in-person customers by 10 p.m. each night. However, Stephan said his bar had already been doing that and putting other state-required protocol into place prior to Reynolds’ order, which he said doesn’t change their operations.

Like years past, Iowa Brewing Company will be open on Thanksgiving, but for to-go curbside service only this year — and like years past, robes are still encouraged, but not required.

“It feels great that people want to get our beer. It really does,” Stephan said.

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