Pandemic Paramours: Valentine’s Day in Iowa City

University of Iowa students and downtown restaurants explain how they’ve rearranged their plans to make celebrating Valentine’s Day safer.

Ailis McCardle, News Reporter

Students and businesses across Iowa City are reimagining Valentine’s Day in a time marked by social distance, from limited dinner reservations and special carry-out packages to smaller, at-home gatherings.

Several area restaurants, including Pullman’s Diner and St. Burch’s Tavern, will be offering special to go packages, while Basta Pizzeria only took a limited number of dinner reservations. 

St. Burch Tavern staff member Chloe Mallon said the restaurant’s to go packages would include both champagne and oysters, and that St. Burch Tavern’s dinner reservations would be taken with social distancing guidelines in mind. 

General manager Tim O’Brien said Basta Pizzeria has been careful about adhering to social distancing guidelines to prevent community spread. To remain socially distant, the restaurant limited reservations and are now fully booked for Valentine’s Day, he said.

They are still offering carry-out and curbside service, with Valentine’s Day specials including desserts, he said.

Young couples and friends have also had to be flexible with their holiday plans.

University of Iowa juniors Ava Johnson and Greg Ward have been together since August 2020, Johnson wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. The couple still had activities they wanted to do together but hadn’t yet, such as skydiving, she wrote.

While both Ward and Johnson have been vaccinated, Johnson said that they would still be taking precautions. 

“It’s very important to both of us,” she wrote. 

UI senior Marissa Brown wrote in a text message to the DI that she and her girlfriends would be holding their “Galentine’s Day” celebration at home, instead of going out together. Their plans include ordering Zio Johno’s for carry-out, home-made cake, card games, and watching a “cheesy” romance movie, she said.

UI junior Alexandria Julius compared her last Valentine’s Day with her boyfriend, UI senior Reed Fidler, to this year’s in a Facebook message to The Daily Iowan.

“Last year for Valentine’s Day, we went to Formosa,” Julius said. “I think we ordered enough sushi for the whole restaurant! We likely spent the night talking in the study lounge as not to disturb our respective early-to-bed roommates. This year we will be having an at-home Valentine’s date.” 

Julius said the couple had ordered a create-your-own ice cream cake from Coldstone Creamery and would likely have a “last minute pasta dish” and watch horror movies.