ICPD and UIPD encourage education over punishment as bars reopen

Last weekend saw the first time Iowa City bars opened their doors since August with restrictions on social distancing and general COVID-19 protection.


Tate Hildyard

Iowa City locals and University of Iowa students pile into Elray’s in downtown Iowa City on Friday, October 9th, 2020. As of this weekend, the government mandated closing of bars has been lifted prompting an upswing of business as locals and students return.

Samantha Murray, News Reporter

Last weekend saw the first college students at Iowa City bars since August. Now, everyone from police to employees face new issues with reopening and staying open while COVID-19 cases in continue to rise.

The University of Iowa campus police has been assisting the city department with party patrol on Friday and Saturday nights since late September.

UIPD spokesperson Hayley Bruce said the primary objective is to respond to noise complaints and determine whether a UI student is violating policies. This could result in a referral to the Office of Student Accountability after repeated failure to follow procedure.

Bruce said that voluntary compliance with these orders are the main goal.

“UI Police look for opportunities to educate people about the mask and social distancing expectations, as we believe education has longer lasting impacts and better outcomes for all involved,” Bruce said in an email to The Daily Iowan.

Iowa City police are trying a similar tactic in the bars with a focus on education, according to Captain Denise Brotherton.

Brotherton said that the department is and will continue to proactively patrol the downtown area to help the public and businesses follow masking and distancing mandates. This also extends to ensuring proper conduct while waiting in line outside a bar.

“The officers on patrol this past weekend observed bars making a dedicated effort to maintain compliance and were responsive to officer suggestions for improvements,” the captain said in an email to the DI.

Bars will be punished for repeated problems and failure to comply with the mandates. In these cases, the bars will be handed over to the Iowa Alcohol Beverage Division.

Brotherton said she wants to remind the public that infection rates will increase, and in order to keep people as healthy as possible, people must wear masks in public spaces and to practice social distancing whether standing inside or outside of a bar.

“We want everyone to have an enjoyable and safe time in Iowa City while supporting businesses in the downtown,” she said.

RELATED: Bars to reopen in Johnson, Story County

Samuel Jarvis works as a manager in the Johnson County Department of Public Health. He said that to his knowledge, most bars were making a good effort to follow guidelines.

Jarvis said that he advises people to avoid overcrowded bars and to alert employees or owners to concerns when possible.

“Definitely address those issues, and say as a patron, ‘I’d like to continue visiting your establishment, but I’ve got these concerns,’ and have that conversation,” Jarvis said. “Certainly, if there are other concerns, approaching the Department of Inspection and Appeals is another route.”

For bars to avoid unsafe conditions, Jarvis said that social distancing is always helpful, having seats for patrons, and screening employees. For further guidance, guidelines from the Department of Inspections and Appeals are available.

Facebook Comments