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Owners, patrons happy to be back in Marshalltown bars

T-R photos by Lana Bradstream — Bob “Jake” Jacobson, owner of The 918, laughs with and greets some customers on the first day of his bar reopening on Thursday.

Marshalltown bar owners were more than happy to reopen doors to their businesses on Thursday. Customers walked through doors with smiles on their faces and greeted friends with fist bumps or elbow knocks.

After being shut down since March for the COVID-19 pandemic, bar owners have struggled to pay expenses and regular bar patrons have not been able to frequent their favorite watering holes.

Kevin Vaughn, the owner of Vaughn’s Pub, said it felt great to be back open after the 10-week shutdown.

“It is so good to get back,” he said. “I can’t say that it is not a scary situation, that there is nothing to worry about, but we have had a lot of reaction from people who are excited to be back.”

Vaughn put some restrictions and regulations in his bar. Some stools were removed to help ensure social distancing and signs have been placed to serve as reminders. Masks are voluntary but hand sanitizer is available. If people want to play pool or shoot darts, they need to bring their own equipment. Vaughn said pool cues and darts will not be provided.

Kevin Vaughn, the owner of Vaughn’s Pub, is happy to reopen his establishment after being shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So people do not have to touch the electronic juke box, Vaughn said they can install an app on their phone which will allow them to choose from the selections available on the box.

One hour and 15 minutes after Vaughn’s Pub reopened on Thursday, 15 customers had already walked through the door and mostly ordered some beer. Vaughn said they were primarily regular customers who wanted to drink some brew and catch up with friends.

“They’ve been cooped up a long time,” he said.

One of the COVID-19 regulations issued by the state is bars cannot have more than 50 percent capacity. That leaves a maximum of 49 people in Vaughn’s Pub at any one time.

“We should get close to that,” Vaughn said. “Especially later after people get off work.”

Social distancing reminders have been placed on the floor of Vaughn’s Pub in downtown Marshalltown.

Vaughn has owned the bar for 27 years. The last time he had an extended shutdown was following the 2018 tornado.

“That was a five-week shutdown,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of fun during these last couple of years.”

Bob “Jake” Jacobson, the owner of The 918, shared in Vaughn’s feelings regarding reopening.

“After 71, 72 days, we finally have income coming in instead of expenses going out,” he said. “Some people are elated to come in and see their friends, have a good time.”

Some of his customers were quick to call Jacobson “family.”

A sign on the door of The 918 informs customers that the COVID-19 virus may or may not be present, and informs them that they can wear whatever apparel they deem necessary.

Jacobson has also taken steps to remind patrons of social distancing. Tables and stools were moved 6 feet apart.

He did say enforcing social distancing might be challenging, especially with the people who like to go from table to table and visit. However, Jacobson said he wants to make sure everyone’s visit is as safe and pleasant as possible.

The owner said masks are voluntary. One of the steps Jacobson is taking to ensure safety has been delayed. He ordered an infrared thermometer to take people’s temperatures upon entry. However, the thermometer has not arrived. When it does, an employee will be stationed at the door to check everyone.

After opening for a few hours on Thursday, Jacobson said he had eight customers who mostly order Bloody Marys.

“They are so happy to be back,” he said. “We might not have had many yet, but they have this attitude like we were never closed. They are having a good time, talking to old friends.”

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Contact Lana Bradstream at lbradstream@timesrepublican.com

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