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While COVID-19 has delayed or canceled many of our current plans, when it first struck the area, some plans were already too far along for cancellation.

Like Prairie Kitchen in downtown Iowa City and the revamped Pizza Ranch in North Liberty, some new businesses had their recent openings overshadowed by the current global pandemic.

Apex Laser Tag

City High alum Austin Green opened Apex Laser Tag about two and a half weeks before area businesses were forced to close partially or completely due to COVID-19 in March.

The facility, located in the Iowa City Marketplace at 1660 Sycamore St., boasts 40 sets of laser tag equipment and 14,000 square feet, according to Green.

"The ambiance as soon as you come in — you've got red lighting, you've got a themed arena, you've got giant pillars," Green described. "The ambiance is the difference... every part of the process is much more immersive."

The venue, in which up to 40 people at a time can play, currently has 25 different games or "missions" for customers to experience. Many of these, Green said, are inspired by video games and include capture the flag and a zombie mode

The business started last September without a permanent physical location— at that time it was a mobile gig that would set up shop in area rec centers, gyms or the like and use inflatables to create arenas for people to play laser tag in.

"(We wanted to) judge the market to see if this was something that would be viable for a physical location," said Green. 

Having opened while there are still concerns surrounding the novel coronavirus, Green said staff sanitizes the arena prior to play and customers are asked to social distance during games.

The location reopened the first week of June and has been hosting events since at $15 per player for three hours of access. Currently, the venue is open Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 7-10 p.m., but it is closed this weekend for the holiday.

La Tea

Located at 123 E. Washington Street in downtown Iowa City — formerly the home of Iowa City eSport — La Tea is a new milk-tea venue that launched in June.

The venue is owned by Shanshan Kong, who also opened La Wine Bar last year. While La Wine Bar boasts a variety of offerings from Korean-style fried chicken to seaweed wraps, La Tea focuses on expanding some of the milk-tea selections offered at La Wine Bar. 

Hours are currently listed as 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. seven days a week.

Thoma's Meat Market

Owned by Aaron Thoma and located at 1331 Muscatine Ave. toward the east side of Iowa City, Thoma's Meat Market opened at the beginning of June. 

The location focuses on selling "local sourced, heritage bred meats" and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Taco John's

As of reporting, it's unclear when this location will open to the public. A sign for the chain recently went up at the "Coral Shoppes" (previously referred to as the Coral Galleria), roughly a year after Taco John's closed its location at 204 2nd St. in Coralville.

Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers

Located at the onetime home of Spatri's Gyros — 61 2nd St., Coralville — a new Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers has recently opened in its place.

This new location arrives roughly 16 months after the Old Capitol Mall in downtown Iowa City opened a Freddy's location. Unlike the Old Cap location, however, the Coralville venue includes a drive-thru and outdoor seating.

Isaac Hamlet covers arts, entertainment and culture at the Press-Citizen. Reach him at ihamlet@press-citizen.com or (319)-688-4247, follow him on Twitter @IsaacHamlet

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