Six more Iowa bars accused of violating governor’s emergency orders

A Dallas County bar is seeking class action status for a lawsuit challenging the governor's COVID-19 mitigation restrictions. (Photo by Linh Ta/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division is scheduling hearings on complaints against six businesses accused of violating Gov. Kim Reynolds’ COVID-19 orders on virus mitigation.

The hearings pertain to the following establishments:

Bo-James in Iowa City: The restaurant is accused of violating the governor’s orders on Aug. 28 by failing to ensure at least 6 feet of physical distance between each group or individual dining or drinking alone; by failing to ensure that all customers who were served alcoholic beverages were also served food; and by failing to ensure that all patrons were seated at a table, booth or bar.

Cube Ultra Lounge in Council Bluffs: The lounge is alleged to have violated the governor’s order on Sept. 4 by failing to ensure at least 6 feet of physical distance between each group or individual dining or drinking alone, and by failing to ensure that all patrons had a seat at a table or bar.

Xcaret Club and Lounge in West Des Moines: The bar is alleged to have violated the governor’s order on Aug. 22 by failing to ensure at least 6 feet of physical distance between each group or individual dining or drinking alone and failing to ensure that all patrons had a seat at a table or bar.

Shotgun Betty’s in West Des Moines: The bar is alleged to have violated the governor’s order on Aug. 22 by failing to ensure at least 6 feet of physical distance between each group or individual dining or drinking alone and failing to ensure that all patrons had a seat at a table or bar.

Knights of Pythias, Furgerson Lodge No. 5 in Waterloo: The lodge is accused of violating the governor’s order on Sept. 9 by opening the business to the general public.

Edo’s Sports Bar in Waterloo: The bar is alleged to have violated the governor’s order on Sept. 11 by failing to ensure at least 6 feet of physical distance between each group or individual dining or drinking alone; failing to ensure that all customers who were served alcoholic beverages were also served food; and failing to ensure that all patrons were seated at a table, booth or bar.

Each licensee faces a potential civil penalty for their violations and has the right to appeal.

The Iowa Capital Dispatch recently reported that complaints from Iowans about bars and restaurants with liquor licenses failing to impose COVID-19 mitigation measures have increased five-fold.

Between March 17 and July 29, the Iowa Alcoholic Beverage Division fielded 147 complaints — an average of just over 1 complaint per day — about Iowa bars and restaurants violating laws and orders related to COVID-19 mitigation. Between July 30 and September 8, the ABD fielded 229 such complaints, an average of 5.7 complaints per day.

The Alcoholic Beverages Division pursues complaints related to taverns, bars, restaurants and other establishments with a liquor license. The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals handles complaints involving food establishments that do not have a liquor license.

DIA says it has received a total of 962 complaints related to restaurants’ COVID-19 mitigation efforts, but to date the agency’s only enforcement action has been to issue one warning to a defiant deli owner who says he told inspectors he wasn’t “going to play ball” with them.

Unlike DIA, the Alcoholic Beverages Division can impose fines and it has warned businesses with a liquor license they could face a $1,000 fine for a first offense.

A second violation for establishments with and without a liquor license can lead to a seven-day suspension of the license by the ABD, as well as a seven-day suspension of the food license granted by the DIA. A third violation could trigger the revocation of all food and alcohol permits and licenses.

At this point, the division has at least a dozen open cases that could result in action against the license holders.

Clark Kauffman
Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.