Iowa’s Alcoholic Beverage Division Sorting Out ‘Bad Actors’ with COVID-19 Checklist


DES MOINES, Iowa — Two West Des Moines bars are accused of violating social distancing guidelines. Both X-Caret Club and Lounge and Shotgun Betty’s were cited on August 22nd for not maintaining six-feet of distance between groups of customers. Four other bars around the state were also cited, and now face the possibility of civil fines.

Turns out, they may not be the only ones. The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD) is asking every establishment with a liquor license to complete a COVID-19 checklist by this Friday.

The checklist is being asked of the about 4,000 establishments with liquor licenses across the state after hundreds of complaints came in to the ABD saying businesses weren’t following the rules. The ABD said as of Monday, it has received over 420 complaints, some credible, some not. That’s why it hopes this compliance checklist will help sort what it calls the “bad actors” from the good.

“We know a lot of licensees are doing the right thing. They’re working very hard at doing the right thing. We’ve conducted over 1,000 inspections across the state so far, and we can tell that,” Chief of Licensing and Regulation for the Iowa ABD said. “Then we also know there are a few bad actors.”

In those inspections, Happe said keeping people socially distanced and in their seats is the main issue.

“It’s the establishment that is having a hard time saying no to customers that are coming in and then quickly get themselves in a situation where they have a lot of people in there where it’s just physically impossible to social distance, to keep groups six feet away from other groups, and then also have enough seats and tables and the establishment for everybody to be sitting, while they’re either eating or drinking alcohol,” Happe said.

The checklist will make sure each establishment understands the latest proclamation and can show with good faith they are doing the right thing. This way, the ABD can expedite its inspection process. Those who fill out the checklist with start out in good standing.

“If they don’t, and they don’t want to fill out [the checklist], they’ll rise to the top of our inspection list. So now, when we’re allocating resources, we can spend time on the ones that we think are either not complying with the proclamation and, or that they need a little bit more education and information in order to comply with the proclamation,” Happe said.

The ABD said if an establishment is found not following the proclamation, the first offense is a $1,000 fine, the second is a seven-day suspension, and the third would be a revocation of its license.


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