DES MOINES, Iowa — Mongo Eikleberry has made his bar, Blazing Saddle, a safe space for Iowa’s LGBT community since it opened.
He’s now requiring customers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to keep the bar safe from the delta variant.
“I don’t want to have your problem infect anybody,” Eikleberry said. “If you say, ‘Iowans will do the right thing,’ I respond, ‘Why are there so many cases?’ Apparently Iowans are not doing the right thing.”
Blazing Saddle’s next-door neighbor, Buddy’s Corral, will also require proof of vaccination for customers starting Monday.
Their measure is in conflict of a recently passed Iowa law that targeted “vaccine passports.” The law, which Iowa’s legislature approved in May, punishes businesses and government entities that require customers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination by denying them access to state contracts and grants.
“It’s a personal choice, but I strongly oppose vaccine passports and I believe we must take a stand as a state against them,” said Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds shortly before she signed the bill into law.
Eikleberry said he is unafraid of the consequences because Iowa’s LGBT community knows how quickly a virus like COVID-19 can spread.
“I went through the AIDS epidemic and lost God knows how many people,” Eikleberry said. “I don’t want any more dead friends.”