Reynolds opens bars in four counties, Johnson and Story bars remain closed

Less than three weeks after shutting down bars in six Iowa counties, Gov. Kim Reynolds has lifted restrictions in four counties.


Katina Zentz

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during the Condition of the State address at the Iowa State Capitol on Tuesday, January 14, 2020.

Caleb McCullough, Politics Editor

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds will allow bars in four counties to reopen, but bars in Johnson and Story Counties, the homes of Iowa’s two largest universities, will remain closed.

Reynolds closed bars, breweries, and other drinking establishments in Black Hawk, Dallas, Johnson, Linn, Polk, and Story Counties on Aug. 27, citing rising COVID-19 cases in those counties, especially among young people. Bars can reopen in all counties but Johnson County, home of the University of Iowa, and Story County, home of Iowa State University.

Bars in the four counties where restrictions were lifted will be allowed to reopen at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

Bars were blamed for the large increases in coronavirus cases in college towns as students returned in August. University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld criticized the Iowa City business community in a letter in August for disregarding social distancing restrictions implemented by the governor.

Daily case rates went down in Johnson County following the bar shutdown, according to the Iowa coronavirus website. 4,854 people in Johnson County have tested positive for the coronavirus, and more than 75,000 people statewide have tested positive.

Bars that can reopen will still be required to comply with social distancing guidelines outlined in the governor’s proclamation, including keeping six feet of distance between groups of patrons, and requiring patrons to be seated while eating or drinking.

The White House Coronavirus task force recommended that bars in 61 counties be closed at the end of August, and that the governor issue a statewide mask mandate. Reynolds has been opposed to a mask mandate, elevating a message of personal responsibility instead.

“The proclamation also continues to strongly encourage all Iowans two or older to wear a mask or other face covering when in public settings, especially in circumstances when it is not possible to remain six feet away from others outside their household, unless it is unsafe to do so because of health or disability,” a press releasee from the Iowa Governor’s office announcing the bar reopenings said.