Iowa Restaurant Association: “Restaurant Industry on the Brink of Decimation” | Archive


CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (KWWL) – Saturday was supposed to be the annual Cy-Hawk game in Iowa City, but COVID-19 canceled these plans. The game was discontinued in July after the Big 10 announced that would limit any program to only the adversaries of the conference.

The game would have given a much needed boost to bars and restaurants.

Many are still closed by Governor Reynold’s Last Six Counties Proclamation to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“To say we’re on the verge of decimation doesn’t exaggerate how difficult times have been,” said Jessica Dunker, president of the Iowa Restaurant Association.

For bar owners like Dave Deibler, 2020 has been the year of the curve.

“I think you’re either going to ride with it or you won’t survive,” he said. “You have to take it day by day and try not to panic too much.”

Deibler and his wife co-own Octopus and Mohair Pear on College Hill in Cedar Falls. He said the name of the game remains calm in the face of so much uncertainty.

“It is an extremely stressful time,” he said. “We don’t think we’re near the end, so there’s a lot of anxiety about what lies ahead.”

This is the second time that his bar has been closed this year. He said the first time that he totally agreed, but this one is different.

“This most recent shutdown probably puts too much of the blame on too few Iowans,” he said. “Sure, college kids are part of the problem, but it’s Iowans of all ages and ages who don’t take this seriously enough.”

Dunker called the governor’s decision to close bars in six counties a “gut reaction” that punishes bars and restaurants for doing everything right.

“It’s just one more nail in a coffin for people who are barely hanging on,” she said.

Overall, the restaurant industry has lost over $ 1 billion in revenue since the closures began.

Deibler said his income is about half of what it usually is. For now, you just have to pay the bills.

“We’re a little different from some bars. We’re a neighborhood bar that has a bit more regular flow,” he said. “Our goal is not to lose money and sort of stay level, and that has been possible so far, so we’ll see what happens.”

Since he owns his building, Deibler said he is in a better position than some of his fellow bar owners.

“It gives us some control,” he said. “If you are renting it makes it a bit more difficult.”

To get by, bars like Octopus have to get creative. On Friday, they suggested that the growlers go.

“We’re just trying to keep our name there and raise some money,” he said. “It’s a matter of awareness.”

Because his clientele isn’t just students, Deibler said he’s done better. Customer support, including a GoFundMe campaign, has helped the bar rise.

“It made the difference between us having to dip into our savings and watch this scary reality,” he said. “Made us move forward. “

The $ 25,000 in assistance to small businesses in March and the $ 10,000 Governor Reynolds made available to bars in the six affected counties also helped.

Despite all the curves that 2020 has kicked off, Deibler has said he’s confident Octopus will pull through, but many more won’t be so lucky.

Dunker said she expects at least 1,000 restaurants and bars in Iowa before the dust settles from the economic fallout.

“From restaurant facilities to breweries to wineries, the things that make Iowa Iowa,” she said. “They are all on the verge of collapse because we just cannot keep ourselves at limited capacities in this way.”

Governor Reynolds said she would reassess her proclamation on September 20.

But if it lasts longer, Dunker warned that up to 35% of bars and restaurants in the six counties could close their doors for good.

“We’re not in an industry where it used to be open, everyone is going to come and eat and drink and six months of food and drink,” she said. “This is revenue that will be sunk, and for a lot of people, they are now turning to businesses that cannot be saved.”

With the onset of winter, outdoor seating will soon no longer be an option for restaurants.

“We need people to be confident and comfortable to come back to our establishments because we will not be spending the winter,” she said. “Mars will come and you will potentially see one in four places stepping outside your community.”

This is why Deibler said we are currently in a life and death time for many small bars and restaurants across the state.

“Every dollar spent is a vote to pursue the things you love,” he said. “Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Cedar Valley and Iowa need to actively support small businesses to a level we have never reached before.”

This is the only way, he said, that they can get out of it and survive.

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