COVID-19 struggles affect Dyersville restaurants as 2nd eatery announces closure in 2021

DYERSVILLE, Iowa — Another Dyersville eatery soon will close its doors permanently.

Joe’s 2nd St. Diner, 131 Second St. NE, will close after Feb. 14, according to an online announcement posted Tuesday morning. The diner would have celebrated its 11th anniversary on March 1.

The post by owner Joseph Menge cited the impact of COVID-19 as one of the primary reasons for the closure. Menge did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.

“It’s been a good run, but I’m moving on to bigger and better things and an easier life,” the post read.

Dyersville Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Karla Thompson said the diner has been a staple of the community.

“Joe’s Diner had their famous food,” she said. “They were best known for their chicken, but all of their food was really good. I’ve never had a bad meal there.”

This is the second Dyersville eatery that has announced its end in the past month. Country Junction announced its permanent closure on Jan. 1, also citing COVID-19-related business struggles.

The city’s Pizza Hut also closed in September. However, Thompson noted that this closure might not have been solely related to COVID-19.

One of the pizza chain’s largest franchisees, NPC International, filed for bankruptcy in July and planned to close hundreds of Pizza Hut locations. Pizza Hut restaurants in Manchester, Maquoketa and Dubuque were shuttered around the same time as the Dyersville location.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on all businesses, Thompson said, but the restaurant industry has been hit especially hard as safety measures placed limits on restaurant capacity.

“All of those restaurants really make an impact,” she said. “So many people have been going there for so long. Even tourists will comment, ‘Oh, we’re sad to see them go.’ So this not only affects the local level but tourism, which is so big here.”

She added that the chamber is reaching out to Dyersville’s bars and restaurants to compile a list of their specials and hours. The list then will be emailed to community members to highlight the local businesses.

Mayor Jim Heavens said places like the diner or Country Junction might be a victim of changing dining patterns.

“When I talk to the grocery stores and liquor stores, they say business is booming,” he said. “I think we’re seeing a reversal of the trend over quite a few years where people aren’t eating at restaurants and are eating more at home.”

He added that COVID-19 also greatly impacted the number of people taking tours of the town and stopping somewhere for lunch.

“I don’t know how anxious I’d be to plunge into something like (the restaurant industry) until COVID is over,” he said.