Advertisement

Bo-James settles with the state on alleged COVID-19 violations, will have two-day liquor license suspension

  • 78
    Shares

Bo-James, 118 E. Washington Street in Iowa City. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

Unsafe gatherings of new and returning University of Iowa students caused a surge of COVID-19 cases in Johnson County in August, which in turn led Gov. Kim Reynolds to include Johnson in her emergency proclamation closing bars, distilleries and breweries in six counties on Aug. 27. This order was lifted in Johnson County on Oct. 5.

While rumors circulated about several area businesses failing to follow this order to a T, only one Johnson County business received a reprimand from the state: Bo-James on East Washington Street in downtown Iowa City.

A complaint was filed against Bo-James (along with five businesses in other counties affected by Gov. Reynolds’ temporary closure order) by the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division in September. On Tuesday, Bo-James and the state announced a settlement agreement that does not require the business to admit to any wrongdoing but suspends their liquor license for 48 hours — from 6 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 25, to 6 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27. If Bo-James is caught selling or serving alcoholic beverages during that time, it stands to lose its liquor license permanently.

Under Reynolds’ August proclamation, businesses that primarily sell alcohol were required to close down, and restaurants were required to stop selling alcohol after 10 p.m. A bar and restaurant like Bo-James could only stay open if it was making 50 percent or less of its monthly revenue from alcohol sales and all customers who purchased an alcoholic beverage were also served food.

Bo-James’s alleged violations occurred on or near Aug. 28, according to state officials. They said the business failed to maintain social distancing measures, didn’t serve food to all customers who purchased alcoholic beverages and allowed customers to roam throughout the space, in violation of Reynolds’ order.

In the settlement released this week, Bo-James owner Leah Cohen denied that social distancing rules were violated. She did not contest the food-related violations.

The first weekend after bars in Johnson County got the OK to reopen, hundreds of young people flocked to downtown Iowa City, lining up outside the Sports Column, Brothers, Field House, Bo-James and others, often in much closer proximity than encouraged by the sidewalk markers designed to keep patrons socially distanced.

Iowa City Nighttime Mayor Joe Reilly told the Daily Iowan that these downtown businesses could encourage safe behavior in their lines outside, but they ultimately do not have authority to enforce mask-wearing or social distancing until the patrons reach the bouncers. Iowa City does still have an active mask mandate for public spaces such as downtown sidewalks, violations of which are subject to citations from Iowa City and University of Iowa Police.

Downtown bars, by most accounts, were doing their best to follow social distancing guidelines required by the state (and in their pledges to the Iowa City Downtown District) inside while trying to get back to business after weeks of full or partial closures, and recent rent payments.

Now that the 14-day average positivity rate has lowered since August’s spike — even as the pandemic statewide continues to hit grim records and milestones — most Iowa City businesses say they’re committed to keeping numbers in check, and are resentful towards those who aren’t.

When one business is more lax in their enforcement of social distancing or mask-wearing, it becomes harder for other businesses to expect caution from customers, according to Jason Zeman, CEO of the Corridor Entertainment Group (which operates businesses such as Studio 13, the Yacht Club and Eden Lounge).

SIGN UP TODAY

Subscribe for daily news updates from Little Village

SUBSCRIBE

“Before [bars were allowed to reopen], we’d have four to five places that weren’t doing it, and everyone else was,” Zeman told the Daily Iowan. “It was much more difficult to enforce the rules compared to when everybody does the same thing and we’re all doing what we’re supposed to be doing, the best we can.”


  • 78
    Shares
Thoughts? Tips? A cute picture of a dog? Share them with LV » editor@littlevillagemag.com

Advertisement

Advertisement

Summer Programs 2020

Get 150+ local restaurants delivered to your door in the Iowa City & Cedar Rapids areas!

The Future is Unwritten

You look to Little Village for today’s stories. Your sustaining support will help us write tomorrow’s.

Regular

$10/mo or $120/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
The cost of doing this work really adds up! Your contribution at this level will cover telephone and internet expenses for one month at the LV editorial offices.

Italic

$20/mo or $240/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
$240 is enough to cover one month’s costs for sending out our weekly entertainment newsletter, The Weekender. Make a contribution at this level to put a little more oomph on your support and your weekend.

Bold

$30/mo or $360/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
LittleVillageMag.com connects eastern Iowa culture with the world. Your contribution at this level will cover the site’s hosting costs for three months. A bold move for our boldest supporters!

All monthly and annual contributors receive:

  • Recognition on our Supporters page (aliases welcome)
  • Exclusive early access when we release new half-price gift cards
  • Access to a secret Facebook group where you can connect with other supporters and discuss the latest news and upcoming events (and maybe swap pet pics?) with the LV staff
  • Invitations to periodic publisher chats (held virtually for now) to meet with Matt and give him a piece of your mind, ask your burning questions and hear more about the future plans for Little Village, Bread & Butter Magazine, Witching Hour Festival and our other endeavors.

Advertisement

Randy's Flooring is a local, employee-owned retailed that has been part of the Corridor for over 40 years, delivering quality and value through the largest selection of carpet, tile, hardwood, window treatments, and specialty products supported by the knowledgeable staff and in-house flooring designers who can help transform residential and commercial spaces.

 
Get Started