Businesses can reopen — but some in Iowa City are having second thoughts

Iowa City will see the return of limited in-person dining of some of its favorite local businesses this weekend, but other businesses are waiting before they welcome customers back inside.


Tate Hildyard

Brothers patio is seen on May 15, the first day Johnson County restaurants were allowed to reopen at limited capacity.

Josie Fischels, Arts Editor

Iowa City businesses are split on the decision to reopen their doors after Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Wednesday that nearly all businesses in Iowa will be allowed to open at half capacity beginning May 15. 

Johnson County had previously been one of the 22 counties where restrictions still applied for businesses including salons, restaurants, retail businesses, and fitness centers. Now, Reynolds has expanded the order to include businesses in all 99 counties, except for bars and casinos. 

A handful of area businesses have already taken to social media to announce their reopening plans — or their decision to wait. Brothers Bar & Grill on 125 S Dubuque Street announced Tuesday on Twitter that they would open their doors beginning May 16, while other local eateries like Dumpling Darling posted on Facebook on Thursday that their dine-in services will remain unavailable as they continue to determine a reopening plan. 

Micky’s Irish Pub co-owner David Stein said local restaurants and businesses like his are definitely feeling the pressure to reopen. The pub has not yet announced any plans to reopen for dine-in service. 

“Everybody who owns a business in Iowa City is financially concerned, we’re all in the same boat,” Stein said. “Our models are all set up to handle a certain amount of people, we’re expecting a certain amount of people for our financial models to work. We take that away completely, and that’s tough. The model has to change.”

Stein said he felt very fortunate to have outdoor seating available, should the pub reopen, especially after Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague’s announcement Wednesday to reduce restrictions for public sidewalks to promote social distancing while dining. 

“I think the outdoor thing is going to be very important in the next couple months, I think maybe more important than people realize,” Stein said. “It’s nice to have that as an option.”

While Stein foresees that operating at half capacity will hit restaurants particularly hard, other businesses, like Iowa City women’s clothing store Velvet Coat, will not be seeing as drastic of a change as they shift to an appointment-only model, according to co-owner Michelle Galvin. The store announced plans to reopen beginning May 15 on their website and Instagram on Tuesday. The store will allow only two customers inside for an appointment at one time.

“We’ve never been a high-volume store,” Galvin said. “We’re not usually a crowded store and we work a lot one-on-one with clients so personal appointments don’t feel that different for us.”

Several salons have also made plans to reopen with new protective measures, including Thompson & Co Salon Parlor on 513 E Washington St. The salon posted on Facebook Wednesday that it will open on May 15 for appointments. 

For operations owned by the city that fall under the categories of businesses allowed to reopen, restrictions remain unchanged. According to Director of Parks and Recreation Juli Sydell Johnson, fitness centers such as Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center have not made any plans to reopen. 

Other fitness centers like Top Shape Gym have announced new safety procedures and a May 16 reopening date for their Iowa locations on their website. 

Galvin, Stein, and the businesses that have announced their plans on their websites and social media have all expressed that safety is their highest priority as they navigate or consider reopening. For Stein, safety is especially important to him when it comes to considering how reopening will affect his employees.

“We’re certainly not going to force people to come back to work, that’s not who we are,” he said. “If people don’t feel safe, or they don’t feel like this is the right time, we understand that. Safety is of the utmost concern.”

Want to know which of your favorite Iowa City businesses’ plans are? Check here. This post will be updated as more businesses announce their plans. See something we’re missing? Email [email protected]. Check back for updates. 

Pop’s BBQ is continuing takeout and delivery for the foreseeable future. 

Blackstone will begin a full-service reopening on Saturday. The restaurant will continue to offer takeout and delivery.

The Airliner will reopen on Friday with limited seating and menu.

The Wig & Pen Pizza Pub will not be reopening at this time, but will continue with their carry out & delivery only options.

Pagliai’s Pizza is not reopening their indoor dining area at this time, but will continue with curbside pick up and carry-out orders.

Bluebird Diner isn’t reopening its indoor dining, but is adding on to its carryout/delivery dinner hours.

Trumpet Blossom Cafe will likely not reopen its dining room for the month of May.

Deluxe Cakes & Pastries will not be reopening at this time, and will continue with curbside pick up options.

The Java House will reopen but will adapt to take sanitary measures.

Joe’s Place, including the rooftop dining area, will reopen on May 16 for groups of no more than six guests.

Revival Clothing Store will open by appointment only beginning May 19.