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'We're not picking sides': Why one Bettendorf restaurant is maintaining COVID mandates after state loosened them

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced the state would rollback all Covid restrictions on Feb. 5. But Mickey's Country Cafe is still enforcing the mitigations.

BETTENDORF, Iowa — On Friday, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced that Covid-19 restrictions for businesses across the state would be rolled back, effective February 7. 

However, Mickey Kosgard said that wasn't going to be an option for her Bettendorf restaurant, Mickey's Country Cafe. 

"We have so many customers that have come in here for 20-something years. They have grown with us," said Kosgard, owner and namesake of Mickey's. "We wanna protect them, we don't want nothing to happen to them, so of course we're going to try to do what we can." 

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Mickey's will continue enforcing Covid-19 mitigations for as long as necessary, in order to keep their customers and staff healthy. The restaurant will remain at half capacity, tables are still spaced 6 feet apart, and masks must be worn whenever one is not seated at a table. 

Kosgard says many of her regulars are elderly, with some folks stopping in to spend time with the staff and ease some of the loneliness the pandemic has brought about for many older people. Keeping them safe, is her top priority, even if it means making decisions that might not financially benefit her business. 

"We have a lot of elderly people that are fearful, who come here only because we take care of them. They'll tell me this is the only restaurant we come to because this is where we feel safe," she said. 

Two of those customers, Shirley and Robert, have been regulars at Mickey's for over a decade. The Le Claire couple say the friendly atmosphere and fantastic food is what's brought them back over the years, but now the comfort they feel is what's gotten them to Mickey's throughout the pandemic. 

"There's very few places that we do eat out," remarked Shirley. "We're at that age where, let's face it, we're really susceptible [to Covid] so it is important to us to feel safe." 

The couple have been extremely careful for the past year, and going to Mickey's is one of their only social interactions. Consequently, they say it's been a lonely year, and they've felt isolated. They haven't seen their kids or grandkids for months. 

"You miss 'em," said Robert, tearing up. "But it's just the way it is." 

Another regular, Jeanne Little, says her and her husband love making the drive from Princeton, Iowa, to Mickey's. And since the restaurant announced they'd be continuing mitigations, she feels even more at ease. 

"I feel so much better knowing that people are respectful of other people's health and we care enough to wear a mask," said Little. "The reason I do is because I want to not only be safe, but if for some reason I was carrying this virus, then I just don't want to give it to anybody else. I'm just doing it for caring for people." 

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Kosgard says the decision was a difficult one to make, after the last year strained her financially and mentally. 

"But as a restaurant owner, or any business owner, these are decisions you have to make that are best for you, your business, and your customers," she said. "You're always gonna be a bad guy somewhere, you just can't help it. But you've just got to do what you think is right for your business." 

She says nothing about Mickey's enforcing mask mandates and social distancing is political. In fact, she reiterated numerous times how much she wouldn't want to be in Governor Reynolds' shoes. 

"We're not picking sides. We're not trying to say Governor Reynolds is making a good choice, bad choice," remarked Kosgard. "Our thing is, lets just be kind to each other, make the people that do wear it and that feel that they need to wear it be comfortable. Just be a kind person and do that for them. And for the people who don't agree with the masks... don't give up on us. Hopefully we can continue to keep their support as well."