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What to know about Minnesota’s latest guidelines for reopening bars, restaurants and salons

Gov. Tim Walz
Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune/Pool
Gov. Tim Walz said his guidelines — which he termed “maddeningly complex” are not the impediment to reopening businesses, they are the keys to reopening.

Gov. Tim Walz said Wednesday that beginning June 1 bars and restaurants can serve customers outdoors, while barbers and salons can operate indoors at partial capacity — if patrons wear masks.

The announcement was the governor’s latest step to relax restrictions on public life meant to slow the spread of COVID-19, which health officials say has killed 777 Minnesotans since mid-March amid the lockdown on businesses and travel.

Walz has allowed many businesses, including retail stores and malls, to reopen under a set of rules and guidelines. Yet bars, restaurants, gyms, salons, theaters are among those that have remained closed to in-house customers.

Not all of those businesses, deemed “public accommodations,” received a green light to open on Wednesday. And the Walz administration gave no timeline for when gyms and theaters can resume indoor services. The same is true for large in-person religious services. But the governor did lay out what a partial reopening might be like for businesses and houses of worship that remain closed.

Walz said his guidelines — which he termed “maddeningly complex” — are not the impediment to reopening businesses, they are the keys to reopening. “Minnesotans are going to be able to get back out there and try and make sure we’re supporting these local businesses,” Walz said. “While it’s not perfect, it’s safe and it’s moving the dial.”

Here’s what you need to know about the latest announcement:

What is the justification for the governor’s new guidance?

The state has maintained COVID-19 is more likely to spread the longer people are near each other, and the closer people are to each other. Sitting at an indoor restaurant for an hour is riskier than briefly shopping at a store, state officials say.

In keeping with that, state officials said outdoor service is less dangerous. Steve Grove, the commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development, said there is inherent risk when people sweat and breathe heavily in a gym, or sing together at a church.

Though he acknowledged there are few, if any, “outdoor barbers,” which prompted the administration’s decision to allow indoor services.

“We have clear evidence from health experts that outdoor settings are a lot safer than indoor settings,” Grove said.

Bars and restaurants can open outdoors

Starting June 1, bars and restaurants will be able to open outdoor space but not serve customers indoors. Tables at outdoor patios must allow at least 6 feet of space between customers and tables can only serve four people — or six if the people are all part of “one family unit.”

Reservations will be required, and workers will have to wear masks. Customers will be encouraged to wear masks. No more than 50 people can be on a business premise at any time.

While not every business has a patio or outdoor space, Grove said restaurants and bars should get creative with in partnership with cities and local governments to use sidewalks or parking spaces.

Grove said eventually, in the next reopening phase, some indoor service will be allowed.

DEED Commissioner Steve Grove
Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune/Pool
DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said there is inherent risk when people sweat and breathe heavily in a gym, or sing together at a church.
Barbers and salons (and tattoo parlors) will operate with limitations

The state will now allow “personal care services” — which includes hair salons, barbershops and tattoo parlors — to open starting June 1. 

But those businesses will have to implement a COVID-19 plan to mitigate risk and limit the number of clients on their premises at any time. Customers will have to be at least 6 feet apart from others (except when, say, getting a haircut) and businesses can allow inside only 25 percent of capacity as outlined in the fire code.

Like bars and restaurants, walk-in service is banned, and both customers and workers have to wear masks at all times. If a service can’t be done without a mask, it’s not allowed.

What remains closed

It’s unclear when large religious services, gyms, theaters and crowds at sporting events can resume. 

But “Phase 3” for reopening, the next round of relaxed restrictions, may include gyms, outdoor concerts and movies, with limitations on the number of people involved. In Phase 3, outdoor religious services with up to 100 people will be allowed if everyone involved wears masks and can maintain 6 feet of social distancing. (Until Phase 3, people can gather in groups of 10 or fewer indoors or outdoors for religious services.) Grove, the DEED commissioner, said there will be even more restrictions, including on singing. 

Grove said singing is “one of the worst things you can do,” because it can project infectious particles further into the air than talking. After a choir practice with one symptomatic person in Washington state, 87 percent of those who attended developed COVID-19.

Bowling alleys, movie theaters, arcades and other theaters will remain closed under Phase 3, but may open under Phase 4. Grove said there are no dates for when those phases begin, though “the governor wants to move as quickly as we can.”

Campgrounds to open, too

While Walz had opened dispersed and remote camping around the state, other campgrounds, including campgrounds at state parks, remained closed until at least May 31. The guidance announced Wednesday says all campgrounds can open, with some restrictions, beginning June 1.

Reactions to Walz’s latest order

Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature pushed back against ongoing restrictions on churches. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said he hopes federal courts will intervene to reverse the limitations and said he is “growing more concerned there is a targeted effort to keep churches closed and keep people away from their house of worship for no good reason.”

Two Minnesota churches are suing Walz over his ban on large religious services. “I see no reason why churches are any more dangerous a place for coronavirus transmission than Walmart or a mall,” Gazelka said.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, questioned if there was scientific justification for allowing indoor salon services, but not indoor restaurant service. “Outdoor seating at bars and restaurants should begin immediately — we need to trust our businesses to protect the health and safety of employees and customers,” he said.

Doug Loon, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, expressed frustration with Walz, which is notable because the organization has mostly aligned with the governor’s plans to reopen the economy. Loon called for a timetable on when other restrictions will be relaxed and said the governor’s announcement “doesn’t sufficiently recognize the ability of businesses – many of them small businesses – to innovate and protect employees and customers.”

Hospitality Minnesota, a trade association that represents restaurants, said in a written statement from the organization’s CEO, Liz Rammer, that Walz’s guidance would be a “disastrous setback” for restaurants that can’t host customers outdoors.

Many restaurants have begun to hire back staff and order products to reopen June 1, Rammer’s statement says. The industry group called for a “targeted relief package” from the state. “As these businesses stare in to the face financial collapse, today’s announcement further delays the incoming revenue these small businesses need to survive.”

Peter Callaghan contributed to this report.

Comments (30)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 05/20/2020 - 05:57 pm.

    “Outdoor seating at bars and restaurants should begin immediately — we need to trust our businesses to protect the health and safety of employees and customers…” Mr. Daudt, once again, shows us that he’s a creature of ideology, not intellect. There is already ample evidence, since mid-March, that while there ARE businesses that take the health and welfare of their customers and employees seriously, there are also plenty of others that do not. Unless Mr. Daudt is willing to pay for a lot of funerals after admitting liability for needless deaths, it might be better if he remained silent, thus not putting his callousness and ignorance on public display.

    Daudt is not alone, unfortunately. Mr. Gazelka is similarly “non-thinking” (to borrow a phrase from 2nd District Republican candidate Jason Lewis, speaking of young people when he was a radio host). Attending a church service (the vast majority of which involve singing) could quite easily be fatal to several in every congregation: “… After a choir practice with one symptomatic person in Washington state, 87 percent of those who attended developed COVID-19.” A miserable death seems a steep price to pay to gather with others to sing and pray when both of those activities can be conducted just as effectively (remember, God is with you always) at home and/or by yourself. Yes, the fellowship aspect will be missing, possibly for several months, but are you really willing to kill your fellow-worshippers rather than wait until it’s safe?

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 05/21/2020 - 10:16 am.

      Christian churches also run afoul of the indoor dining restrictions, although that was not much mentioned! (sarcasm)

      One wonders what the position of the governor would be if the Archbishop promises no choirs or singing. That would be rather easy for Catholics, less so for Lutherans, apparently impossible for Evangelicals!

      Looks like a massive church-state legal battle has been teed up.

  2. Submitted by cory johnson on 05/20/2020 - 06:00 pm.

    These guidelines are ridiculous. Why would any restaurant owner bother reopening under these? Get ready for the surge of permanent closures.

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 05/21/2020 - 10:06 am.

      I don’t think the new guidelines are ridiculous, but it is difficult to see how many restaurants that don’t already have large established outdoor spaces (such as roof-tops) can operate under these restrictions. But then, I seriously doubt they could have operated under the 25-50% capacity rules they were “expecting”, either.

      I remain puzzled as to where exactly the hundreds of billions in business aid that has already been appropriated by the Congress was supposed to go, and why it has not been disbursed by Trump’s Treasury, which is reportedly sitting on $500 billion in relief funds.

      On the other hand, the workers of the restaurants have been laid off (and covered by either unemployment of the paycheck protection grants), and obviously there’s no food expense. That basically leaves rent and enough for the owners (assuming they aren’t some large corporation) to live on. One would think that that such sums should have been the goal of the small business aid and that it could have been gotten to small restaurants by now.

      Another massive failure by the incompetent Trump and his regime of sycophants and fools is about the only explanation, but this is what comes of his denial and minimization of the pandemic.

      • Submitted by Rory Kramer on 05/21/2020 - 03:25 pm.

        Some restaurants have applied for and received funding through the PPP. The businesses that haven’t applied for funding are uncertain if they’ll be able to keep staff employed before the 60 day period is up when the loan would be forgivable, and until they know for certain with less restrictions they’re not going to utilize the PPP.

        The restaurants and other small business are pissed off that they’re closed while places like Wal-Mart and Target, places that’ll have more people in the store in a couple hours than the local watering hole will have in a couple days, are still open for business. Places like Wal-mart don’t keep small towns going, the local grocer, bar and hair salon so.

        The Treasury Department and the Fed are still working out the particulars of the different programs that the money you mention are earmarked for.

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/21/2020 - 06:57 pm.

          Then maybe the small town shouldn’t have invited them in. They never seemed to be concerned about their local grocer, hardware store, pharmacy going under previously, why start now?

      • Submitted by Stephanie Westall on 06/21/2020 - 02:22 pm.

        I believe Waltz is being smart with the slow, staggered reopening. Unlike MANY government officials- including our President- he is listening to the scientists and healthcare professionals and trying to do this the right way.

        Lets look at Oklahoma, Florida, & Texas. They rushed the reopening and now they are setting new high records everyday. The governors say “it’s because of increased testing”, thats just crap because Oklahoma is testing LESS (wonder why…) and their numbers just keep setting records, 5 record highs this week alone! In Florida their hospital rates are also setting record highs, if the increase in positive cases were due to more testing than the hospital admits would be either staying the same or going down. These states are headed for a very rude awakening very soon. They may be looking at another shut down.

        By taking his time, Gov Waltz is trying to keep Minnesotans safe. Not only that we DO NOT have what we need if we were to have a spike in cases. Many hospitals do not have the PPE, ventilators, staff, equipment, and space required to care for large amounts of COVID patients. The state of Minnesota does not have the PPE and ventilators we need! They have been trying to order these things, but because Trump and the task force have told companies the federal government comes 1st, we cant get these necessities.

        That means if we had a sudden onslaught of COVID patients in hospitals and we do not have the ventilators, people will be dying due to lack of life saving equipment. And what about our rural areas which lack hospitals? Where I live our hospitals are an hour apart and serve many towns. So 1 hospital to serve everyone in a 30 mile radius, that is frightening to me.

        And I am sorry but there is a huge difference between a Wal-Mart and a church. I can pray and read my bible at home, I can zoom with my pastor for private council or watch him stream his sermon at home, and while doing all of this I know God is with me. He is always with me.
        Do you know what I cannot do at home? Buy groceries, healthcare supplies, household essentials, cat food and litter, etc.

        So I think trying to compare Church with Target or Wal-Mart is like comparing apples with microwaves, it just makes no sense. Another thing is that if I were to go into a Wal-Mart I know I am able to safely social distance and wear a mask to protect myself and others. But guess what, I dont have to! They provide curbside pickup as do many of the other essential stores do.

        In church social distancing can be a very difficult thing to do, you would have to limit to 25-50% capacity. So how does this work? Have the congregation split into 2 groups and go every other Sunday? Take reservations for church? First come first serve and everyone else is turned away? I believe church is essential, but I also believe that God would want us to care for ourselves as well as others and worship in a safe way. Because if an individual does contract the virus it doesn’t just affect them, it affects everyone around them.

        We have to be selfless- stay at home when possible and in public social distance and wear a mask. But as I read more and more of the comments from Minnesotans I see selfishness and ignorance. Do you know why the death rates include mostly elderly and those with underlying conditions? Because we were quarantined! There would have been a different outcome if our governor hadnt taken the steps he had.

        So Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, & others with early opening are seeing this huge increase about a month after. Lets see where we are in 1 month, if Waltz continues to do this properly hopefully we will not see a dramatic rise. If we do see a spike, that tells me either people are not following guidelines OR this spreads much easier than we think it does.

  3. Submitted by Joe Smith on 05/20/2020 - 06:57 pm.

    Maybe now that the CDC has backtracked on catching the virus from surfaces, next to no chance of that happening, is now CDC’s position. German health institute corrected New England Journal of Medicine on asymptotic people spreading the disease, not happening. Perhaps the State of Minnesota can allow folks to open their businesses, knowing it is person to person contact with droplets exchanged as main spreader of COViD 19. Just for good measure, there is absolutely no evidence that children are “super spreaders” of this disease also.
    With 98% of deaths in Minnesota consisting of folks with comorbidities and 84% of those taking place in long term care facilities, getting out of the house to work, eat, shop or exercise is good for you, not deadly.

    • Submitted by Brian Nelson on 05/21/2020 - 10:10 am.

      Joe, can you please cite the source for this statement: “German health institute corrected New England Journal of Medicine on asymptotic people spreading the disease, not happening.”

      • Submitted by Pat Terry on 05/21/2020 - 11:13 am.

        Mr. Smith only reads the parts he wants to believe.

        The German institute criticized part of the study NEJM relies on. They did not, however, conclude that it is not happening.

        And the CDC is now saying it does not spread easily on surfaces, not that there is no chance of it spreading.

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/21/2020 - 06:58 pm.

        Maybe his “naturist” is German?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/21/2020 - 01:11 pm.

      I don’t think restaurants have been closed because the state is worried about people catching COVID from licking the tables. There are other reasons to be concerned about those people.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 05/21/2020 - 07:14 pm.

      Nice to see Joe endorse the policies of scientist ANG GALA Merkel.

      On March 20:

      US Cases : 14,250
      Germany: 14,138


      US Cases : 1,550,000
      Germany: 176,752

      Germany elects a PhD in Quantum Chemistry and gets scientific solutions

      US elects a reality TV host and gets science fiction.

      • Submitted by BK Anderson on 05/22/2020 - 12:56 pm.

        There you go looking at the big picture and not missing the forest for the trees!

        But yes, methinks that perhaps Joe did not adequately think this objection through…

  4. Submitted by Dennis Barrett on 05/21/2020 - 08:36 am.

    Solons and barber shops might consider being open from 12-9 PM to help occomodate those who can only schedule on Saturdays. This might help their bottom line and avoid overcrowding. A larger gratuity for that idea might help as well.

  5. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 05/21/2020 - 11:13 am.

    Really Gazelka ? Walz is “targeting churches and keeping people away from their houses of worship for no good reason”…..Really ?
    My God you are clueless….unbelieveable…no, believeable for a trumper.

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 05/21/2020 - 12:16 pm.

      Yes, good catch, my eye was drawn to the same line. Totally incendiary and irresponsible rhetoric by the “leader” of one of the two legislative chambers.

      And beyond reckless when one considers the age of most regular church-goers these days and who are most at risk from the virus. So younger people are incited by describing the virus as one that affects only the aged, while the aged are incited by claiming that religion is being unfairly “targeted”. Great work, Gazelka! “Pulling Together” indeed…

    • Submitted by ian wade on 05/21/2020 - 01:30 pm.

      It’s really all the GOP has left at this point…grievance and victimization. They conjure up these dog whistles to keep their base in a lather.

  6. Submitted by Betsy Larey on 05/21/2020 - 01:25 pm.

    There is no other state that has punitive measures such as these in place, with death rates as low as Minnesota. The person who said restaurants have no expenses besides rent obviously knows nothing about a balance sheet of the restaurant business. Or any other business for that matter.
    I came back from Florida last week. Had I known Governor ( Dictator )
    Walz was going to pull a stunt like this, I would have stayed there. In May he said “ restaurants, gyms and salons could open June 1”. Smart guy, inserting the word could. He intended to do this all along.
    In Florida we’ve been opening in phases also, and it’s going well. Restaurants and gyms were the final piece, and social distancing ( masks worn in the gym with limited people there – call for a 60 min reservation) measures in place. Everyone for the last 3 months people in the northern states kept saying the same thing – Florida, your numbers are going to explode. They have not. Guess what? Minnesota’s numbers haven’t exploded either. So here’s the deal folks. As long as you practice social distancing and wear a mask, your chances of getting this are slim and slimmer. And for this, Walz has thrown thousands of small biz owners under the bus. Many will never open again.
    If he actually cared about these businesses, he would pick up their expenses while he forces them to stay shuttered.
    Well guess what? He doesn’t care. He never did. And this is what you get when you elect a union guy. I am officially done with the Democratic Party.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 05/21/2020 - 02:19 pm.

      How would you even know what is happening in Florida? The state has blocked and/or censored the release of information about deaths and the spread of this virus. It has fired health officials for conveying bad news.

      Minnesota has a governor who is cautious, but more importantly, honest with people. The policy in Florida is deliberate ignorance. Stupidity and dishonesty. Hoping it will just go away.

      People should be done with the Republican party, or at least Trump. That failure of a human being his devastated the economy with his incompetent response. We’ll be in the Trump recession for a few years, I expect.

    • Submitted by ian wade on 05/21/2020 - 04:19 pm.

      Well, you have all of the GOP talking points down, along with the ad hominem towards Walz. It should be an easy transition to make.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/21/2020 - 07:00 pm.

      Death rates as low as Minnesota? Clearly you’ve not met the right people to get the daily GOP handout, don’t you know your supposed to trumpet how much WORSE the death rate in Minnesota is this week?

    • Submitted by Brian Gandt on 05/23/2020 - 12:36 pm.

      I’m guessing that you missed the memo to “Reagan democrats” in the 1980s?

    • Submitted by Joel Stegner on 05/26/2020 - 01:54 pm.

      Came back from Florida? Hope you are now in quarantine. If you don’t like a state that is careful like Minnesota rather than reckless like Florida, why not go back and enjoy your freedom to sweat out your summer? If you changed your residence to Florida, you lost your vote on what goes on here.

  7. Submitted by John Kirby on 05/21/2020 - 01:30 pm.

    If you’d like to dine-in and have a few drinks just head across the border to Wisconsin, Iowa or the Dakota’s. A lot of Minnesota dollars will be spent there this weekend – and all those folks will come back to Minnesota.

  8. Submitted by Tomas Mauser on 05/22/2020 - 09:26 am.

    What am I not understanding here? Casinos are allowed to open with hundreds of gamblers inside, but churches – even with similar restrictions in place – are limited to only ten worshipers? And this decision is supposedly based on science?

    • Submitted by Bill Mantis on 05/22/2020 - 01:14 pm.

      Will churches be willing to comply with the same spacing/protective barrier standards that casinos are obliged to adopt?

  9. Submitted by Robert Ahles on 05/23/2020 - 10:18 pm.

    I had to go out for groceries at Cash Wise in Waite Park yesterday. The store had a large number of customers. Employees were wearing masks but I was shocked that only a few customers were wearing masks. I spoke with one employee and she told me that only about 20 percent of the customers were wearing masks during her shift. Eighty percent of these customers didn’t give a damn about their fellow man. I will no longer go into the Cash Wise store until Chris Coborn provides a safer environment and requires masks for both employees and customers. If I were an employee of Cash Wise or Coborns I would consider myself a fool for not leaving that dangerous environment.

    Disregarding rules and guidelines makes others less safe and may be considered an insult to those on the front lines that have made major personal sacrifices for the greater good.

    • Submitted by Henry Johnson on 05/26/2020 - 10:44 pm.

      ” Eighty percent of these customers didn’t give a damn about their fellow man. ”

      I would also say they don’t give a damn about themselves!

      I’m shocked that most people believe the nonsense we’ve been told (without any actual evidence by the way) that wearing a mask protects others, but NOT the person wearing the mask.

      A mask is just a filter, Imagine a cotton t-shirt being held up by 4 corners so it represents a mask, and fine dust and dirt then being blown in the direction of the t-shirt by a fan.

      Some of the finest particles of dust might go thru the shirt, but much of the dirt and dust will be stopped by the t-shirt.

      Now hose down the t-shirt to clean away the trapped dust and dirt and let it dry in the sun, and this time put the fan on the opposite side of the t-shirt, and do the same test.

      According to this “it doesn’t protect the wearer of the mask” nonsense, all of the dust and dirt would go right thru the very same t-shirt material, and the t-shirt WOULDN’T FILTER-OUT ANY OF IT!

      Right.. Now that’s some BS…

      That’s ridiculous, it’s a filtering material, it’s not like there’s little one-way values in the cotton fibers, and there no one-way filter valves in a surgical mask, or a homemade bandana mask either.

      No, if a mask filters out water droplets going OUTWARD from the person wearing the mask, it also filters water droplets coming INWARD from others as well.

      In fact, since a strong sneeze or cough might blow infected water droplets around the edges or right thru the mask, I’d say it’s safe to say that a mask filters out a HIGHER PERCENTAGE OF INCOMING water droplets than outgoing water droplets!

      And the virus is encapsulated in water droplets, which are many, many times larger than the virus itself – so if the mask material is fine enough to stop water droplets, it will trap many of the encapsulated virus particles before they reach your breathing passages.

      Even a homemade bandana, folded so there are a few layers provides some protection – and not just for others – for YOU, the wearer of the mask!

      Wear a mask to protect YOURSELF – look at also protecting others as a side benefit..

      If everyone wore a mask, we’d be able to open up our economy faster and more safely.

      That’s one reason Korea and China were not hit anywhere near as hard with covid-19, it’s almost a religion in Asia that everyone wears a mask, and that along with better testing and tracing let them prevent covid-19 from ruining their economies and killing large numbers of people.

      Here in the US, we have 4% of the population, and about 30% of the infections and deaths – maybe it’s time to get smart and do what they did in places with far lower infection rates per 100,000 people – and that definitely includes everyone wearing a mask – and doing it for our own SELF-PROTECTION, as well as for the benefit of society as a whole and the economy.

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