Iowa Restaurant Owner Poised to Bounce Back After Shutdown Due to Employee’s Positive COVID-19 Test

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DALLAS CENTER, Iowa — Randi Boelkes never could have predicted celebrating the three-year anniversary of her business under a global pandemic.

“It’s hard right now. Sales are tough and we are already limiting our hours,” said Boelkes.

On April 25, Boelkes, who co-owns Twisted Corn Tavern in Dallas Center with her mom Juanita Slaughter, had her world turned upside down. “On Saturday, our server told us they had tested positive and the last time that person worked for us was the week prior,” Boelkes said.

Boelkes tried to get advice from calling 211, but they could only direct her to the Iowa Department of Public Health, which didn’t open until Monday. Boelkes said, “This employee didn’t contract it while at our restaurant. We have reason to believe that it was completely outside and not with us.”

Boelkes decided to close immediately. She said, “We did it at mid-shift, too. It was a 7:30 p.m. phone call to my bartender and I told him shut it down. No more orders. We are done.”

Having to inform the public on Facebook wasn’t easy. “It’s hard. This has probably been the most stressful time of my life. It was a little scary making that post to submit it,” she said.

Instead of a cold shoulder, she received the community’s embrace. Boelkes said, “We found out there was a lot of support. A lot of people went out of their way to say thank you for doing that. I think it showed that we cared.”

May 1 puts Twisted Corn Tavern at 14 days since the employee last worked and back in business for curbside pickup. “Support local, buy local, think local at this point,” said Boelkes.

According to the Iowa Restaurant Association, Iowa has just under 6,300 bars and restaurants, and they expect the impact of COVID-19 to permanently close the doors of 1,000.

Boelkes says seeing Iowans in this fight together keeps her positive. “It would be really challenging to see the light at the end of the tunnel but knowing that everybody is facing this same problem. The federal government is putting in some money. The state government is putting in some money. That does make a difference,” said Boelkes.

Twisted Corn Tavern recently learned they did receive a grant from the Small Business Administration. On Monday they applied for a Payroll Protection Program loan.

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