Governor extends business restrictions; restaurant industry targets rule breakers

Courtesy Downtown Muscatine

Governor Kim Reynolds has extended her public health emergency proclamation that requires social distancing measures for businesses and other establishments for another month.

The extension comes as the President of the Iowa Restaurant Association is calling out establishments that aren’t in compliance. Jessica Dunker says 99% of the 6,300 bars and restaurants follow the protocols — and many go above and beyond them.

“The problem that we are seeing is the people that the people who are doing it right are really being negatively impacted by the few places that we see that are not doing things right. That is having just a complete disregard for the things that are mandated in the current proclamation,” Dunker says.

Dunker says there also needs to be more enforcement for those not following the temporary regulations. “Because right now you can certainly report to the Department of Inspections and Appeals — they will follow up, they will investigate, they will reach out and do education, but there is no next step that is put in place for them right now,” according to Dunker. “And so, we are simply saying as an industry if we are going to continue these mitigation steps that there should be some sort of ability for them to take a step for them to do enforcement.”

She says Iowa can’t handle setbacks that have happened in other states. “We’re seeing in other states rollbacks of openings, rollbacks on capacities, rollbacks on the number of hours you can serve alcohol, requirements that you can only do outdoor dining. We simply as a state of Iowa in our hospitality industry — we can’t afford it. We will collapse,” Dunker says.

Dunker says an outbreak of COVID-19 caused by a restaurant that is not following the rules could impact every establishment in the state. She says they are worried that there would be too much publicity for those who are breaking the rules and that would hurt the 99 percent who are doing it right. “And we are already facing losses in the neighborhood of $750 million in the industry. Most locations have revenues of less than 50 percent of where they were,” Dunker says.

Dunker says they are working with customers to ensure that everyone can follow the guidelines. “We’ve launched a program called the Iowa Hospitality Promise, that’s really a contract between restaurants and patrons,” Dunker explains. “And we’re saying we’ll do everything to keep you safe– and in exchange — we’d like you to do the same.”

The proclamation had been set to expire Saturday, and will now expire August 23rd. The measure covers bars and restaurants, gyms, casinos, salons, theaters, along with doctor and dentist visits.

— Radio Iowa

This story originally appeared on the Voice of Muscatine. Read More local stories here.

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