Spencer Signal circle and tower logo behind text: COVID-19 Community Updates spencersignal.com/covid19

Many Spencer restaurants continue delivery, to-go, drive-thru options following governor’s health emergency declaration

Spencer restaurants and coffee shops are getting the word out about how their operations will be affected by a health emergency declared today by Gov. Kim Reynolds. The health emergency, issued to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Iowa, ordered the closures of many businesses, including dining areas of restaurants and bars, at noon Tuesday. However, according to the governor’s proclamation, restaurants and other similar businesses can still provide delivery, curbside pick-up and to-go services. Drive-thrus may also remain open. The restrictions on restaurants and bars set in the proclamation are in effect through March 31.

Kim Reynolds with Signal logo in background and text "Governor declares health emergency"

Reynolds issues health emergency that orders closures, prohibits gatherings of 10 or more

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynods has issued a state of public health disaster emergency effective at noon today until April 16 that implements steps requiring social distancing and limiting community spread of COVID-19. According to a press release from the governor’s office, those steps include temporary requirements that restaurants move to drive-thru, take out and delivery services only. Bars, fitness centers, theaters, casinos, senior centers and other recreational facilities must also close. Gatherings of more than 10 people are also prohibited. The restrictions applying to restaurants, bars, certain other businesses and gatherings are in effect through March 31.

Grand Avenue in Spencer

Microbreweries one step closer to being permitted use in downtown

Microbreweries are one step closer to being a permitted use in Spencer’s downtown area. Last week, the Spencer City Council voted 5-0 to approve the first filing of an ordinance that would make microbreweries a permitted use in the central business district zone, which encompasses downtown Spencer. City staff has fielded inquiries from “business owners” about opening a microbrewery in the downtown area, according to a staff report to the Spencer Planning and Zoning Commission. An effort to make zoning code changes that support downtown retail and restaurant activity was also one of many recommendations included in an economic development strategy plan Toyer Strategic Consulting developed for the city. Spencer Planning Director Steve Hallgren told the council last week that city staff and the planning and zoning commission are working on defining microbrewery.

Spencer City Council Chambers sign

City council notes: June 3

Contract awarded for city hall renovation project

Midstates Builders of Spencer was awarded the contract for the renovation of what will be the new Spencer City Hall after submitting a low bid of about $1.87 million. The city council awarded the contract Monday following a public hearing and approving and confirming the project plans for the new city hall with CMBA Architects. The project involves renovation of the existing building, 101 West Fifth Street, previously owned by Northwest Bank. There will also be an addition constructed to house offices and the council chambers. In a bid tab, MidStates Builders lists an expected start date of June 10 and a completion date of January 31, 2020.

Spencer City Council Chambers sign

City working to allow outdoor service of alcohol; ordinance clears first filing

Spencer city officials want to make it easier for more restaurants to serve alcohol outside. The Spencer City Council on Monday approved the first filing of an ordinance that amends parts of city code that address the matter. “What we attempted to do with this first draft is bring the outdoor service ordinance in line with the sidewalk cafe ordinance that was just approved a few weeks ago,” City Manager Amanda Mack said. The intent, Mack explained, is to make serving alcoholic beverages outside allowable for businesses “regardless as to whether they’re using a sidewalk or not.”

Changes in the first filing include changing the retainer height to 32 inches, removing the requirement concerning the retainer material and removing the double fencing requirement for temporary outdoor service. But varying setback requirements, or distance from property lines, for service areas also need to be addressed.

Weasy's Lounge and Grille Spencer Grand Avenue

Sidwalk cafés approved; Weasy’s receives first retail kickstarter funds

Spencer restaurants along public sidewalks will now be able to operate sidewalk cafés. Establishments where at least 50% of revenue comes from food sales can apply for permits to operate cafés from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. from April to October. “I see some people in the audience that are instrumental I think in utilizing this, helping us to push to get it in place,” Mayor Kevin Robinson said. “I want to thank Nancy (Naeve), Main Street director, I see Weasy out there, and anybody else who has participated in this and all the citizens who are going to take advantage of it. I think it’ll be a nice addition to the town, so thank you very much everything that you do.”

Both Weasy’s Lounge and Grille and Taqueria El Tapatio have shown interest so far in the idea.

Spencer City Council Chambers sign

Spencer City Council notes: April 15

Spencer City Council members on Monday filed for the second time an ordinance that would allow restaurants to set up sidewalk cafés on public sidewalks outside their establishments. If the ordinance is filed a third and final time, establishments where at least 50% of revenue comes from food sales can apply for permits to operate cafés from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. from April to October. The idea to allow sidewalk cafés has been met with positive feedback. “I’ve heard a lot of people say that it’s great, that it’s long overdue, things like that,” Ward 1 Council Member Tom Nelson said during the meeting. Weasy’s Lounge and Grille is planning to operate a space on the sidewalk out its Grand Avenue establishment.

Spencer City Council Chambers sign

Sidewalk café ordinance clears first filing

An ordinance that would allow restaurants to operate sidewalk cafés on public sidewalks was filed for the first of three times at Monday’s Spencer City Council meeting. If the ordinance is filed three times, restaurants – including those on Grand Avenue – could set up sidewalk cafés as long as 50 percent of their gross revenue comes from food sales. “I think the intent behind that is we don’t necessarily want beer gardens along Grand Avenue,” city manager Amanda Mack said of the revenue source stipulation. Alcoholic beverages could be consumed in the cafe area if purchased in the restaurant. The council’s vote on the first filing was 6-0 in favor, with Ward 5 council member Ron Hanson not voting due to absence.

Weasy's Lounge and Grille Spencer Grand Avenue

Weasy’s hopes to provide outdoor dining; “sidewalk cafés” ordinance heads to council

Imagine enjoying a Weaser Pleaser hamburger and sidewinder fries with a cold beverage outside on a beautiful summer evening as you take in the bustle of Grand Avenue. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? That’s what Weasy’s Lounge and Grill is hoping for. The restaurant and bar, located at 216 N Grand Avenue and expanding next door, would like to offer outdoor seating. The city is moving an ordinance forward that would allow it.

Sammy's Italian Pasta and Pizza

Sammy’s Italian Pasta and Pizza opening ‘very soon’

After a couple months of uncertainty, Sammy’s Italian Pasta and Pizza will apparently open in Spencer very soon. On Tuesday, a sign for Sammy’s Italian Pasta and Pizza was up in place of the former Pizza Hut sign outside the building at 723 South Grand Avenue. That former pizza joint location will now be home to a restaurant owned by Sammy Ramadani. Both Ramadani’s business partner, Met Hasani, and property owner Bill Muller confirmed the restaurant will be opening very soon. “I would say within a week,” Muller said.