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Bars in Black Hawk County can reopen at 5 p.m. Wednesday, governor says
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Bars in Black Hawk County can reopen at 5 p.m. Wednesday, governor says

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Octopus College Hill

The Octopus College Hill in Cedar Falls was among 50 Black Hawk County businesses receiving small business relief grants related to the COVID-19 health emergency.

DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds will allow bars to reopen in Black Hawk, Dallas, Linn and Polk counties at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Her closure order remains in place in Johnson and Story counties — two college communities that have seen spikes in positive coronavirus cases among young people.

Reynolds’ new proclamation permits bars, taverns, wineries, breweries, distilleries, night clubs, country clubs, or other social or fraternal clubs — including a wedding reception venue — to reopen in the four designated counties. It also removes restrictions on hours alcohol may be sold in restaurants.

The order also clarifies social distancing requirements for bars and restaurants throughout the state.

Bars will stay closed in Johnson and Story counties until Sept. 20, but they may continue to sell alcoholic beverages to go. Restaurants in those two counties are still open, but must stop selling alcoholic beverages after 10 p.m.

Reynolds continues to strongly encourage — but not require — all Iowans 2 or older to wear a mask or other face covering in public settings, especially when it is not possible to remain 6 feet away from others outside their household, unless it is unsafe to do so because of health or disability.

Other adjusted public health measures remain in effect until Sept. 20 unless she extends the public health disaster emergency.

She closed bars in the six affected counties last month amid a rise in cases of COVID-19 — especially among people ages 19 to 24 — most notably in college towns where the resumption of fall semester classes was accompanied by crowds of students at bars showing little regard for masks or social distancing.

Reynolds said counties with higher rates of COVID-19 made progress last week in controlling the spread, but she will continue monitoring the trends.

The governor also implemented a $5 million state program offering one-time $10,000 grants to eligible bars and taverns negatively impacted by her closure order.

A group of bar owners in Polk and Dallas counties previously sued Reynolds, arguing the governor was unfairly targeting their industry and had given them just a few hours’ notice to shut down, adding to the financial strain their businesses suffered from closures ordered after the coronavirus pandemic hit Iowa on March 8.

But a district judge declined to issue a temporary injunction that would have allowed the bars to reopen. He did allow the business owners to go to trial and argue the order is unconstitutional.

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