Joe’s Place implements air purification units to reduce spread of COVID-19

Owner Brian Flynn said although adding air purification units to the HVAC system was costly, it will best protect the health and safety of customers and staff.



Joe’s Place is seen on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. Located at 115 Iowa Ave.

Claire Benson, News Reporter

Downtown Iowa City bar Joe’s Place will install four air-purification units into its HVAC system to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in the establishment’s indoor restaurant and bar area.

Joe’s Place owner Brian Flynn said adding these air-purification systems was a sizable investment, but what he felt to be a necessary addition to the space to best protect customers and staff.

“In the current atmosphere, as far as hospitality industry in general with bars and restaurants, [we’re] just trying to add an extra layer of protection for customers and especially for our staff,” Flynn said.

After doing some research, Flynn said, he chose to have these systems installed because they filter potential virus-carrying particles in the air such as dust.

Mechanical contractor Modern Company Inc installed the systems, Flynn said, because the filtration systems are 99.4 percent effective in stopping the transmission of COVID-19, which further encouraged him to make this purchase.

“So, these air purifiers work directly with the HVAC system, and it’s basically an ionization process that uses LED lighting and cleans that as [the air is] recirculated throughout the restaurant,” he said.

In addition to these filtration systems being installed in Joe’s Place, several other bars and restaurants that Flynn owns will also be implementing these systems, including Blackstone in Iowa City, 30 Hop in Coralville and Cedar Rapids, Tin Roost in North Liberty, and Tribute in Coralville.

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Johnson County Public Health Department Community Health Division Manager Sam Jarvis wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that, while the Johnson County Department of Public Health is unable to verify the potential protection installing these air filtration systems will have, the agency acknowledges how increased air flow is a positive step.

“Efforts to increase outside airflow along with wearing masks, physically distancing, and encouraging persons who are ill to stay home help reduce risk,” Jarvis wrote.

The University of Iowa recently upgraded its HVAC systems to MERV13 filters, which help prevent bacteria and virus carriers between air filtration systems.

Iowa City Nighttime Mayor Joe Reilly said these preventative measures taken by Joe’s Place are not listed in any local or state level proclamations, nor are they heavily encouraged.

Reilly said he thinks this shows an increased level of commitment to ensuring a safe dine-in experience for patrons, however.

“That is not anywhere a requirement by state or county or city, but it is definitely a demonstration of safer practices,” Reilly said.

Reilly said implementing similar air purification systems or practices is rather costly, and not something every restaurant or bar establishment is able to currently afford, as each is experiencing a unique financial situation because of the economic state brought on by COVID-19.

“It’s something for every operator to weigh in,” Reilly said. “It’s not that it’s reasonable or affordable to have that purchase.”

Flynn said these purification units are not visible to customers and staff, as they are attached within the HVAC unit, however, they have placed signage around Joe’s Place alerting patrons of this added safety measure.

“So, these [filtration units] are actually connected inside, so you can’t even see them,” Flynn said. “We’ll benefit from this, but … we have to rely on people just kind of knowing that we’re doing that for them.”