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Bars, restaurants to remain restricted


December 18, 2020

MPR News

With COVID-19 cases moderating — but still high — across the state, and the first doses of a vaccine slowly rolling out, Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday he’s extending some of the restrictions on businesses and social gathering announced in November, while lifting or softening others.

Most notably, the current month-long ban on indoor bar and restaurant service will extend through the typically busy holiday season, until Jan. 10 — but limited outdoor dining will now be allowed.

Rules restricting social gatherings have been loosened. Under the previous guidance, the state banned gatherings, indoors or outdoors, among people from different households. Under the revised rules, small outdoor holiday gatherings — with specific restrictions — will be allowed.

Additionally, gyms and fitness centers will be allowed to reopen, and youth sports teams will be allowed to resume practicing on Jan. 4. Walz also announced a plan to prioritize in-person learning for elementary school students.

State officials said they’re trying to strike an appropriate balance between public health and civic life, noting that while COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations have slowly dropped, the pandemic is still far from over.

“We aren’t out of the woods yet,” Walz said in announcing the new plan. “This way forward will help bridge the gap to vaccination by continuing to protect hospital capacity while prioritizing getting our kids back in the classroom and supporting Minnesotans’ quality of life.”

Here’s what you need to know about the new rules, and what’s changed from the last dial-back plan:

• The new order will continue to prohibit indoor, sit-down service at bars and restaurants until Jan. 10. Drive-through and walk-up service is allowed. Up to five people are allowed inside a bar or restaurant at a time, as long as social distancing is possible, to pick up their orders.

Starting first thing Saturday morning, Dec. 19, the rules allow for outdoor seating at 50-percent capacity, with four customers per table, up to 100 people total. But people must be seated if food or drink is served, with tables at least six feet apart.

Seating also cannot be fully enclosed in shelters, which will likely severely limit the number of people willing to dine or drink outdoors during the Minnesota winter. And bars and restaurants must close by 10 p.m.

In the event of inclement weather, customers may move inside to pay their bills and package up food, but must exit quickly.

• While indoor gatherings are still not recommended, the new order allows people to gather inside with people who are members of one other household, for a total of up to 10 people — “as long as members of different households maintain at least six feet of separation from each other and adhere to additional precautions for social gatherings.”

• Outside, social gatherings are allowed, and may include members of three households total, with a maximum of 15 people.

Larger outdoor events — including rallies, spectator entertainment events, concerts, and similar organized events — are still not permitted.

But venues that offer outdoor entertainment, including race tracks, paintball arenas, go-karts complexes, mini-golf courses, performance venues, festivals, fairs and amusement parks may be open. They are not allowed to exceed 25 percent capacity, and aren’t allowed to have any more than 100 people in attendance.

• Gyms and fitness centers will be allowed to reopen, beginning on Dec. 19. They can run at 25 percent capacity for individual exercise, with masks and 12 feet — a new rule — of social distancing required when more than one person is exercising in a space.

Visit for statewide Covid-19 coverage.


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