DES MOINES, Iowa — With many restaurants opening back up over the weekend, there has been some confusion over who can reopen and who cannot; specifically relating to bars.
This weekend Tipsy Crow Tavern opened back up to the public, which prompted many questions as many people consider the establishment a bar. Concerns over social distancing and crowds sparked multiple calls to Des Moines police.
“We had about three calls for service and a period about four hours there with folks that were worried that there were just way too many people there, that there weren’t the social distancing practices in place that were going to keep people safe, and that there were some capacity concerns,” said Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek.
The calls have now sparked an investigation with the Vice and Narcotics unit of the police department which investigates liquor licensing issues.
Currently, under Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proclamation, restaurants may reopen, but bars must remain closed. According to the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, if a bar has a kitchen and is cooking food from scratch, they may reopen and operate as a restaurant.
In Des Moines, a restaurant is classified by an establishment whose sales are at least 50 percent food. According to Des Moines’ Neighborhood Inspection and Zoning, Tipsy Crow reclassified from a restaurant to a tavern in 2018 after they were not meeting the 50 percent food sales required of a restaurant. Therefore, Tipsy Crow does not meet the definition of a restaurant.
Steven McFadden, owner of Tipsy Crow, said in an email that on Saturday the bar operated at 20 percent capacity and closed early at 8:30 p.m. because of a less demand for food. McFadden says there were also additional downtown establishments that opened with some variances. They include Hessen Haus, 1908 Draught House, Johnny’s Hall of Fame, The District, High Life Lounge and El Bait Shop.
Police say the major concern from citizens was the lack of social distancing, specifically at Tipsy Crow.
“I think the one thing that everybody in the community is looking for is that some people be socially conscientious. And that was one of the major concerns of the folks who called us was that it just seemed like people flocking into that bar didn’t care,” said Parizek.
Currently it is unclear whether the state or city guidelines will take precedence in the ongoing investigation.
“The situation with the governor’s order is that restaurants can open, bars can’t. So, what we’re looking at right now is whether there was a violation there, so we’ll get the guys in the Vice Narcotics office — they deal with the liquor licensing issues — they’ll make sure that we get this done fairly and accurately and then move on from there,” said Parizek.