State to strengthen compliance for bars and restaurants

Beginning this week, the state of Iowa will take additional steps to enforce compliance with Gov. Kim Reynolds’ emergency public health disaster proclamation regarding social distancing and advanced hygiene practices at Iowa bars, restaurants and other food establishments.

The Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD) and Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA) will work together to ensure that businesses follow public health guidelines set forth by the proclamation due to the coronavirus pandemic.

To promote social distancing and limit the spread of COVID-19, the proclamation requires establishments to create at least six feet of physical distance between each group or individual dining or drinking alone, all patrons must have a seat at a table or bar, and an establishment must limit patrons from congregating together closer than six feet.

“Public safety is of the utmost importance. Although a majority of bars and restaurants are voluntarily complying with social distancing requirements, we will take these necessary steps to ensure the health and safety of Iowans,” DIA Director Larry Johnson stated in a press release.

The announcement outlines a progressive discipline policy for failure to adhere to the current proclamation:

• For businesses with an alcoholic beverage permit or license, the Alcoholic Beverages Division will issue a $1,000 fine for the first offense. For businesses with only a food license, DIA will issue a warning.

• The second documented infraction for either a business with only a food license as well as those with both a food and alcohol permit or license will trigger a seven-day suspension of the business’ alcohol permit or license by ABD, as well as a seven-day suspension by DIA of the business’ food license.

• A third infraction will trigger the revocation of all food and alcohol permits and licenses for the offending business.

“COVID-19 is still with us and we need bars and restaurants to help mitigate the spread of the virus,” said Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division Administrator Stephen Larson. “For those businesses that choose not to, they need to understand that there are consequences.”

The discipline model will be enforced by both the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals and the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division.

“The vast majority of Iowa’s hospitality establishments are strictly adhering to the mitigation and social distancing mandates addressed in the governor’s most recent proclamation,” Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association, stated in a release. “Our industry simply can’t take the economic devastation of another across-the-board shut down of on-premise service, additional limitations on alcohol service hours, or patron capacity reductions because a few establishments are unwilling to operate within current requirements. We appreciate that today’s announced policy will not penalize the entire industry when it is just a few unwilling to comply.” CBJ