CLINTON — Two Iowa agencies have announced they are enhancing social distancing enforcement efforts that could lead to fines and license suspensions for restaurants and bars that don’t comply.
The sanctions will be enforced by both the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals and the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division.
“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 Governor’s current proclamation, which is in effect until 11:59 p.m. Aug. 23, includes requirements for bars and restaurants to ensure 6 feet of physical distance between each group or individual dining or drinking; to ensure all patrons have a seat at a table or bar; and to limit congregating together closer than 6 feet. Requirements for social distancing, hygiene, and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission also remain in place for gyms, casinos, salons, theaters, and other establishments without change.
The announcement outlines the discipline policy for failure to adhere to the current proclamation. Under the policy:
• 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.”
Iowa’s hospitality industry had expressed support for granting ramped-up enforcement and sanction authority to the Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals. The department has been collecting information about noncompliance, but was unable to take any administrative action, the press release states.
“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,” said Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association. “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.”