Bars to reopen in Johnson, Story Counties

Bars in Johnson and Story Counties will be allowed to reopen on Monday, and breweries, wineries, and distilleries were allowed to open at 5 p.m. Friday.


Katina Zentz

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during the Condition of the State address at the Iowa State Capitol on Jan. 14.

Caleb McCullough, Politics Editor

Bars, taverns, breweries, and wineries will be allowed to open again in Johnson and Story Counties under a new proclamation from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Reynolds issued the proclamation Friday, which allows wineries, breweries and distilleries in the two counties to reopen at 5 p.m. on Friday. Bars and taverns can reopen on Oct. 5 at 12:01 a.m. The proclamation extends through Oct. 18.

On Aug. 27, Reynolds closed bars in six counties as a surge in new coronavirus cases, especially among young people, was reported coinciding with the beginning of the school year at Iowa’s colleges and universities.

Bars in Black Hawk, Dallas, Linn, and Polk Counties were allowed to reopen Sept. 16. In Johnson and Story Counties, home of the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, respectively, restrictions had remained in place until Friday.

Restaurants in the two counties, which were previously required to stop serving alcohol after 10 p.m., will be able to operate at full hours starting Oct. 5 as well. Restaurants and bars are required to follow health precautions, including keeping 6 feet of distance between parties, requiring patrons to order food with an alcohol, and requiring patrons to be seated while eating or drinking.

Johnson County Public Health Community Health Manager Sam Jarvis said he hopes the reopening doesn’t lead to another rise in cases in the county. Jarvis noted that a majority of bars and restaurants are following the social distancing guidelines, but the few that aren’t could cause the virus to spread among patrons. Iowa City’s Bo James was cited by the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division for violating the governor’s proclamation.

Johnson County’s percent positivity rate over the past 14 days is 4.8 percent, according to the state’s coronavirus website, down from single-day rates as high as 42 percent in August.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that cases are low now and we hope that trend continues,” Jarvis said. “Certainly the reopening could potentially lead to that, if persons are allowed to gather pretty closely and things like that.”