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Governor may lift bar closure order next week

Governor may lift bar closure order next week

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds updates reporters on the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak at the Statehouse on Thursday in Des Moines.

DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds indicated Friday she may act early to reopen bars in six counties, including Black Hawk.

The governor last month declared a public health emergency that closed taverns in Black Hawk, Dallas, Johnson, Linn, Polk and Story counties until at least Sept. 20.

Restaurants that serve alcohol were allowed to remain open but must stop serving alcoholic beverages after 10 p.m.

Reynolds took the action to slow the spread of COVID-19 — especially among people in the 19- to 24-year-old age range.

“It’s not an easy decision to make, and it’s not one that I wanted to make,” the governor said Friday.

She made the move as community spread of COVID-19 spiked — most notably in college towns where the resumption of classes was accompanied by students crowding into bars with little regard for masks or social distancing.

Last week Reynolds said counties with higher COVID-19 numbers were making progress.

“I’m hoping next week the data, the trend, is moving in the right direction, and we monitor that every single day,” the governor said Friday. “So, I’m hoping by the beginning of next week at least we’ll have some counties and, hopefully, most of them, that we’ll be able to move off. And then really from there forward, try to target our efforts on the bad actors.”

Reynolds unveiled a plan last week offering one-time $10,000 grants to eligible bars impacted by her closure order. The Iowa Economic Development Authority, overseeing the $5 million program, began taking applications Thursday.

The governor said the funding was intended to “ease” the closure order’s impact “until we can get them back open, and I’m hoping that we can do that next week.”

A group of bar owners in Polk and Dallas counties 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 earlier closures in the spring.

A district court judge declined to issue a temporary injunction but did allow the business owners to go to trial and argue the governor’s actions are unconstitutional.

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