Dubuque owners react after Iowa governor OKs additional business openings

Aquarist/keeper Amanda Erlandson deep cleans a water snake exhibit at National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque on Wednesday. PHOTO CREDIT: NICKI KOHL

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday announced a range of new businesses that will be allowed to reopen in time for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Reynolds said movie theaters, zoos, aquariums, museums and wedding reception venues will be allowed to reopen on Friday, May 22, with appropriate public health measures, social distancing and increased hygienic procedures in place.

Reached by the Telegraph Herald, the heads of several such facilities in Dubuque indicated that some would open, while others would wait.

Bars and other establishments that serve alcohol that have been limited to carryout and delivery service will be permitted to reopen their indoor and outdoor spaces on Thursday, May 28. Those businesses, like restaurants, will be limited to 50% capacity.

Reynolds expressed confidence in the state’s testing capabilities and ability to respond to COVID-19 outbreaks.

“Iowa’s recovery is underway,” she said. “We’ve demonstrated we have the resources to manage any type of an uptick or surge.”

Statewide, there were 394 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 17 more related deaths reported between 5 p.m. Monday and 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The governor’s new proclamation notes wedding receptions hosted in compliance with those requirements will not be a violation of her order prohibiting gatherings and events of more than 10 people.

Effective June 1, Iowa schools will be allowed to resume school-sponsored activities, including summer sports, Reynolds said. She promised to provide more details today about schools.

State campground restrooms, showers and cabins can reopen in time for Memorial Day weekend. Camping will be allowed for tents and all campers, but playgrounds, shelters and visitor centers will remain closed.

Casinos were not included in the governor’s plans, and Reynolds said conversations were underway with the industry to determine how they might safely reopen.

Dubuque pools remain closed

The governor’s order allows swimming pools to reopen Friday “for the limited purpose of lap swimming and conducting swimming lessons.”

City of Dubuque staff members were reviewing the governor’s order and guidelines from the Iowa Department of Public Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But city officials said they did not envision a scenario in which the two municipal pools would open this week.

Dubuque Leisure Services Manager Marie Ware said the city likely still will need a few weeks to reopen with careful consideration of the safety of patrons and staff.

In the past week, she provided a memo to City Council members stating the earliest that Flora and Sutton pools could open was June 20.

“We haven’t cleaned (the pools). We haven’t done any of the prep maintenance work,” Ware said. “And we don’t have staff hired in their totality, and we haven’t done staff training.”

‘Ready to reopen’

Wendy Scardino, director of marketing and communications at National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque, said facility staff have planned for a month with hopes of reopening May 28.

She said the museum will open Friday to members only for four hours and open to the general public on Saturday, May 23.

“We feel strongly we are ready to open,” Scardino said.

While the governor’s order did not provide an occupancy limit, Scardino said the river museum will cap attendance at 75 people every half-hour “to ease congestion and give them the best guest experience they can have.”

The museum will implement a timed ticketing system and asks guests to purchase tickets in advance on its website.

Guests only will be allowed to enter the museum campus through one entrance in the paddlewheel building, with floor signs directing people through the museum.

All museum staff will be required to wear masks, and guests are asked to wear their own during their visit.

‘We simply don’t have any product’

AMC Theatres has said it will not reopen its U.S. locations, including in Dubuque, until there are new movies to roll out.

Cory Jacobson, the owner of Phoenix Theatres in Dubuque, said it will not open this week, and that it is uncertain when it will reopen.

“We simply don’t have any product available (aside from old titles) — at least in our view — to justify opening our business,” he said. “It’s hard for us to open unless you have first-run pictures. We have to have content people want to see to open our businesses correctly.”

Studios as well need a “critical mass” of about 70% percent of all U.S. theaters open and operating to make money off their investment, he said.

“If you can’t get a critical mass of theaters open nationwide, then the film companies are less likely to want to release these films,” Jacobson said.

‘I am concerned’

One Dubuque bar’s owner said she is uncertain when it will and can safely reopen under the state’s restrictions.

Denny’s Lux Club, 3050 Asbury Road, has been closed for the past two months.

Kelly Oppelt said she is excited by the thought of hiring back her staff and seeing customers and her “Lux Club family” again. But she questioned how and whether she will be able to afford to do so.

“I am concerned about reduced capacity and still being able to stay afloat. But it’s better than what we’ve been faced with,” Oppelt said.

And unlike restaurants, where tables can be spaced out and party sizes limited to six or less, Oppelt questions how bars can safely and effectively enforce social distancing among inebriated patrons.

She pointed to Wisconsin, where last week a court ruling tossing the state’s stay-at-home order led to bars packed with customers, while local public health leaders urged residents to continue to stay at home and avoid social gatherings of 10 people or more to reduce the spread of the virus.

“First and foremost, I want my employees and patrons to be safe and not jeopardize anyone’s health or welfare,” she said.