(The Center Square) – Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday the lifting of some COVID-19 restrictions starting Monday on restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues.
Walz cited improving COVID-19 numbers and a rollout of the vaccine in his decision.
“As we cautiously adjust the dials to help Minnesotans return to important elements of their daily lives, we continue to monitor where we stand,” Walz continued. “Two months ago the pandemic quickly snowballed from manageable to out-of-control. For our students, our small businesses, and public health, we cannot allow that to happen again.”
Indoor dining at bars and restaurants can open at 50% capacity, with a maximum of 150 people.
Parties are limited to six people per table and must remain 6 feet from others. Bar seating is capped at two people who must make reservations, and businesses must close dine-in service by 10 p.m.
Gym capacity remains capped at 25% but have an increased maximum capacity of 150. Workout classes can increase to 25 people with social distancing, and participants must wear masks.
Outdoor events and entertainment continue at 25% capacity, but with an increased maximum capacity of 250 people with social distancing.
Indoor events and entertainment like bowling alleys, movie theaters may open at 25%, with a cap of 150 people in each area. Face coverings are required, and they can’t serve food after 10 p.m.
Games in youth and adult organized sports resume Jan. 14 with spectators following capacity limits. Health officials discourage state tournaments and out-of-state play.
Pools may also expand capacity to 25%.
Wedding receptions and other private parties may resume with restrictions. Events with food and drinks served must limit access to two households or 10 people or 15 people outdoors.
Only event venue guidelines apply for private parties without food or drinks.
Places of worship remain open at 50% capacity but have no maximum capacity.
Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm warned Minnesotans against letting their guard down.
“One year into this pandemic, we know that improvements are tenuous. If we let our guard down, COVID-19 finds a way to surge back in terrifying ways,” Malcolm said.
Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association Executive Director Tony Chesak welcomed the change.
“As the numbers in Minnesota have been trending very favorably for a dial turn to the right, we appreciate Governor Walz recognizing how seriously our bars and restaurants are taking the pandemic and that keeping our customers and staff members safe is a top priority by turning the dial for indoor dining and service,” Chesak said in a statement.
“We will continue to work with the Governor and the Legislature on quick and decisive relief for these struggling businesses. We are and have been ready to open our doors.”
Hospitality Minnesota CEO Liz Rammer CEO called the announcement “great news.”
“Reopening will bring in much-needed revenue at a desperate time for these businesses,” Rammer said in a statement.
“We know that operators committed to following the protocols will keep their guests and workers safe and the data supports this. For an industry that provides 300,000 jobs in Minnesota and is integral to every community in the state, the road to recovery is going to be long and we’re very glad to get started.”
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, has advocated for reopening restaurants for months.
“Thousands of families depend on the work and support these community businesses provide. Businesses shut down through no fault of their own have been advocating how they can safely reopen,” Gazelka said in a statement.
“I’m glad Governor Walz listened and loosened the restrictions on businesses. Now it’s vitally important Walz manage a faster vaccination process, so we don’t have to go through this again. Protecting the vulnerable with a vaccine is going to the key to reopening.”