Restaurants in Iowa close to diners after state announces Public Health Disaster Emergency

Posted at 6:25 PM, Mar 17, 2020

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (KMTV) — On Tuesday Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds declared a state of emergency, requiring restaurants to only do carry-out, drive-through or delivery, closing bars, movie theatres, casinos and gyms and limiting all public gatherings to no more than 10 people.

All senior citizen and adult daycare facilities in the state are also closed as part of the state of emergency.

"At the end of the day we want to get people healthy and we need to get this thing behind us and if that means shutting down that is what we have to do," said Matt Johson, the owner of Barley's Bar in Council Bluffs.

Barley's was one of the nearly 600 restaurants in the state to close its doors to diners starting at noon Tuesday. The shut down came on St. Patrick's Day, one of the busiest days of the year in the bar and restaurant industry.

"It's by far the busiest day of the year," Johnson said. "We're not going to have much. I kind of knew it was coming. I think everyone was well aware that there will not be much going on but it rocked me. "

"It's crazy, to think that nothing is open, to go to the gym, to have a drink for St. Patrick's Day," said Jason Peleska, a patron at Barley's when discussing the cancellation.

Though Barley's is staying open for delivery and pick-up dining, the state of emergency is affecting other small business owners.

"It's already taken a toll," said Devon Sanders, a small business owner in Council Bluffs. "We don't have any events coming up and all of them have been canceled. At the end of the day we have bills to pay and don't have any money."

Johnson is a member of the Iowa Restaurant Association Board of Directors and said he estimates 25-percent of the restaurants in Iowa won't be able to stay open long-term if the state of emergency closures last longer than four weeks.

"There's a lot of rural spots in the city that are two week to two week periods and I think shutting down for two weeks will affect a lot of them," Johnson said.

Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs was one of the casinos that closed Tuesday. A spokesperson told 3 News Now they will continue to pay employees through March and will be donating all of their perishable food to the Food Bank for the Heartland.

Watch reporter Phil Bergman's story in the above video.

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