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Mason City Police investigate shooting, non-shooting injuries near local bar
Lisa Grouette / LISA GROUETTE, The Globe Gazette 

Spike's Tap and Grille in Mason City

MASON CITY | Three unidentified individuals were declined drinks after entering a local bar and then got into a fight that ended with one of the individuals firing what several described as a "warning shot" according bar owner, David Despenas.  

The altercation occurred at Spike's Tap & Grill on Seventh Street Southeast about 1:55 a.m. Sunday as the establishment was closing and bartenders were attempting to get regulars out the door.

According Despenas, events unfolded out in front of the bar in the street and involved the three unknown individuals as well as several other patrons. After one of the individuals discharged his weapon into the air, he reportedly put the gun away.

Neither Despenas nor the staff have been able to identify the individuals in question but he assumes they "showed up looking to start something." "These people weren't salt of the earth," Despenas said.

Despenas, who has been a bar owner for 24 years, said that he's never had a problem like this and that "99.9 percent of the time we don't have any altercations." Patrons are "polite even when drinking" and police often walk through to check in and make sure everyone leaves all right. So, according to Despenas, it was just as surprising to them when the call came in.

According to a Mason City Police Department report, several people were sent to the hospital for injuries however there were no injuries reported due to gunfire.

There are cameras across the street from the bar and those are being reviewed though no one has been apprehended for the shooting or the altercation. But Despenas said that if any frequenter of his bar was involved, in any way, he or she "won't be back." 

Mason City Police Department is urging anyone with information to contact them at 641-421-3636 or call Crimestoppers at 1-800-383-0088. 


Merv and Gloria Lemmon have sold the Heartland Diner to Sal and Esmeralda Padilla, who are transitioning it into a Tex-Mex diner. Pictured from left are the Padillas' daughter, Alma Padilla; Esmeralda Padilla; Sal Padilla; Merv Lemmon; and Gloria Lemmon. 

Heartland Diner in Britt has new owners, new Tex-Mex menu items

BRITT | The Heartland Diner has new owners who plan to transition it to a Tex-Mex restaurant. 

But Sal and Esmeralda Padilla are continuing to serve the favorites the regulars at the diner have enjoyed over the past eight years, such as broasted chicken, as they gradually add Tex-Mex dishes. 

“We are trying to do it (the transition) slowly” because customers are used to the Heartland Diner menu, Esmeralda said.

The restaurant will even have the same name for a few more months before it switches to Sal's Tex-Mex Diner. 

The Padillas, who live in Britt, enjoy cooking for their family, which is large on both Sal's and Esmeralda's sides. 

Sal, who cooked at fast food places when he was younger, said opening his own restaurant "is something I've always wanted to do." 

When the Padillas heard Merv and Gloria Lemmon, who opened Heartland Diner in April 2010, wanted to sell the business and retire, "we saw the opportunity and we moved on it," Sal said. 

The Lemmons trained the Padillas for several weeks before they took over so they could learn the Heartland Diner recipes. 

The Padillas signed the purchase agreement  on Dec. 14. Their first day operating the diner on their own was Dec. 17. 

For now the Padillas are keeping the hours for the diner the same as before: 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. They hope to expand the evening hours, possibly until 10 p.m.

The first Tex-Mex item added to the menu was breakfast burritos with homemade flour tortillas.

The breakfast burritos are available to go for those who are on their way to work and don’t have time to dine in.

The take-out option also will be available for regular burritos when they are added to the lunch menu.

The Padillas also plan to add Tex-Mex platters to the breakfast menu. Esmeralda said they resemble the Heartland Diner breakfast platters, except there’s “a bit more spice to it.”

In the spring the Padillas will start grilling chicken, ribs and sausage. They might even add brisket.

They plan to begin serving Sno-cones this summer.

The Padillas don’t have any immediate plans to remodel because the Lemmons recently installed new carpet and painted the walls.

Esmeralda said the regular customers were sad at first when they heard the Lemmons were planning to retire because they were afraid the diner would close. 

However, when they learned someone would be taking it over, they were excited, she said. 

The Lemmons also are happy they found someone to keep the diner going.

“We were looking for someone who had the passion for cooking and the restaurant, and we found them,” Gloria said.

She said she appreciates the loyalty of the customers “who gave us a lot of support over the years.”

“We hope they will give the same support to the new people,” Merv said.

Clear Lake woman with health issues turns to Cheer Fund

MASON CITY | A Clear Lake woman experiencing health challenges is asking the Christmas Cheer Fund to help her buy toys for her grandson.

The 61-year-old woman said in her Cheer Fund application that she recently broke her wrist and was being tested for cancer after “a mass of nodules was found” in her lungs.

“I’m strapped for money after paying rent and my bills,” she wrote saying she had less than $100 for the month of December that she planned on using for gas.

The woman states if awarded Christmas Cheer Fund assistance, it’ll be used to purchase a few toys for her infant grandson.

Since the Cheer Fund began in 1927, more than $3 million has been raised to help about 2,700 North Iowa families.

This year’s goal is $125,000.

As of Wednesday, the Cheer Fund has received $113,134 in donations.

The Christmas Cheer Fund was established by Globe Gazette Publisher Lee Loomis in 1927 so every child could have a present on Christmas morning. In the years since it has come to mean a little help at Christmastime to people of all ages.

Donations may be dropped off or mailed to the Globe Gazette office, 300 N. Washington Ave., Mason City, IA 50402-0271.

Any remaining funds not distributed for the holidays will be given to local nonprofits. The Christmas Cheer Fund balance will return to $100 in January to maintain the checking account.

The deadline to apply for the Cheer Fund has passed. No new applications will be accepted.

GOP chief sees need for new fundraising tools


CEDAR RAPIDS — The 2018 midterm election was a mixed bag for Iowa Republicans who saw their party maintain control of the governor’s office and both chambers of the Legislature, but lose two congressional seats.

That’s further evidence that Iowa is neither red nor blue, but purple, according to Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann.

Despite GOP incumbents losing in the 1st and 3rd districts, Kaufmann believes Republicans can win back those seats in 2020 if it addresses some new realities. Chief among them, Kaufmann said, is to develop a fundraising apparatus to rival ActBlue.

The online fundraising platform has raked in more than $3 billion for Democratic candidates since 2004.

In 2018, 1st District Democratic challenger Abby Finkenauer received nearly $1 million in donations through ActBlue — mostly from contributors in Massachusetts, New York, California and other Democratic strongholds.

“Democrats had one thing we did not — the ability to raise funds from ActBlue,” Kaufmann said. “The outside money they were able to bring in made the difference. You can’t pound Rep. Rod Blum for a year with close to no response and pretend that, in a close district, it’s not going to a toll.”

With the help of ActBlue, Finkenauer spent nearly twice as much as her two-term Republican opponent spent on his re-election effort.

“I feel good about level of donations from Republican activists, but we are going to have to have our own ability to raise dollars outside the district,” Kaufmann said.

In the 1st and 3rd districts, Kaufmann said, Democrats were able to use their cash advantage to run up their margins in urban areas.

Third District Rep. David Young lost despite winning 15 of 16 counties — but not Polk County. In the 1st, Rep. Rod Blum won 16 of 20 counties, but lost the Linn, Black Hawk, Dubuque and Winneshiek counties, and therefore his re-election bid.

“We have a strong base to build on,” said Kaufmann, who noted that in the Iowa Legislature, House Democrats represent about 20 counties and there’s only one Democratic senator west of Interstate 35.

“But we have to begin to mitigate losses in urban and suburban areas.”

It’s doubtful his party will carry Polk County, “and we are absolutely not going to win Johnson County.” However, Kaufmann pointed out that Johnson County has the fifth-largest number of Republican voters in the state.

“So if we narrow the spread there that means we can win back the 1st and 3rd districts and have strength in legislative races,” he said.

Cook Political Report’s first 2020 House ratings have Iowa’s 1st and 3rd districts as “Democratic tossup.”

Republican Party of Iowa