CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (KWWL)- As of 12:01 a.m. Sunday morning, most of Iowa’s COVID-19 restrictions were no longer on the books. Reynolds removed the statewide mask mandate, gathering limits, and other restrictions on businesses in her latest public health proclamation. Reynolds continued to urge social distancing but it’s no longer required by law.
Although the statewide mask mandate is no longer in effect, many cities and counties are sticking with their local mandates. Dubuque, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City are all still requiring face coverings.
The new proclamation gave bar owners like Ivan Wieland more to be optimistic about than just the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl. Wieland is a well known Cedar Valley restaurant and nightclub owner. He owns the Wild Hare American Bar & Grill and Horney Toad American Bar and Grill in Cedar Falls and The Dirty Dog American Bar & Grill in Waverly.
“We are cautiously optimistic,” Wieland said. “It is a light on the horizon.”
Steve Plummer, General Manager at Pepper’s Grill and Sports Pub, remembers March 17 like yesterday. That was the day Reynolds shut down bars like his in the spring.
Since then, it has been a challenge to keep up with changing restrictions and COVID-19 safety guidelines.
“What we are expected to do changes every week,” Plummer said. “It’s been a struggle. It is a lot of adjustments, a lot of hard decisions.”
Both Wieland and Plummer are excited about the changes but for now, are keeping their current safety measures in place.
The governor’s proclamation encourages businesses to take “reasonable measures” to reduce the virus’s spread.
“We could use the extra business but lives are more important,” Wieland said. “We want to make sure we are responsible for the community and make sure we consider safety first and business growth second. We are going to slowly ease into growing and adding tables little by little based on what is appropriate.”
Regardless of whether the restrictions are in place, Plummer and Wieland said they are moving at their customer’s speed.
Plummer said because they are still seeing a significant amount of carry-out sales and pick up orders, he doesn’t think it would be right to dial back safety measures. Tables are still socially distanced and staff is still wearing masks.
“We will see what happens here as things start warming up and more people get vaccinated,” Plummer said. “Public opinion is going to dictate how we do our business. Right now, I think it’s in everyone’s best interest to try and keep people safe and do what we can to increase consumer confidence and get people to be more confident in the ability to go out in public and have a good time and not be concerned.”
Since Reynolds’ announcement on Friday, Wieland said he has made some seating changes, adding stools to the bar. He said it’s a big part of the experience for his regulars.
“There are areas of the bar that are closer, and there are areas of the restaurant that are farther away,” he said. “We provide options to suit each person’s comfort level.”
Wieland hopes taking steps like that will allow the customers who have supported him through the pandemic to feel safe coming back.
“It has been tough on everyone, not just us. There are many businesses of varying varieties that are all suffering,” he said. “The outpouring of support toward our business, in particular, has been awesome. We can’t thank the community enough for that.”
Only a few things are still required under the Governor’s new proclamation, such as mandatory health screenings for health care workers and nursing home staff.