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Looking for someone to enforce rules, bar owners suggest monitoring each other

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IC bars web 9.17

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - Governor Reynolds' mitigation efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 are no doubt Iowa laws. While she has not required Iowans to wear face masks, she has mandated social distancing of people at all indoor bars and restaurants.

As these laws trickle down to the local level, they have not been uniformly enforced by police or business owners. This situation reared its ugly head in late August when Johnson and Story County (where Iowa and Iowa State are) became two of the biggest coronavirus hot spots in the country.

"People really took this seriously once we were seeing case counts well over 200 per day and realized this is not sustainable," Johnson County Public Health Director Dave Koch said.

This led Governor Reynolds to close bars in six Iowa counties where the most virus activity was happening.

The good news is the local spike in Johnson County lasted less than a month and did not significantly affect hospitalizations, according to local health experts.

While the bars are still closed in Iowa City, local bar owners know it has to be different when they reopen. Their new idea? Start a self-monitoring committee.

"Having some internal enforcement among the bars, that'll help," Jason Zeman said. Zeman owns four bars and restaurants in Iowa City, only one of which is open right now.

He says him and a few other owners want to start a committee to educate each other, hold each other accountable and even sit in and watch patrons at fellow bars.

"Because sometimes, you might be so busy you don't notice it," Zeman said. "It's not anybody's fault per say but it's nice to have some there reminding you of the rules."

Zeman says they don't plan on writing tickets for violations but rather brainstorming solutions. He says so far it's gotten nearly universal support from everyone in town and they're just waiting to get the green light to reopen to put it into place.

Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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