(The Center Square) – Starting Jan. 19, customers visiting an indoor venue in Saint Paul or Minneapolis that serves or sells food or beverages are required to prove they tested negative for COVID-19, or that they have received the vaccine series.
The Twin Cities' respective mayors made the announcement in a news conference Wednesday.
Events that require tickets that were purchased at least 14 days in advance are exempt until Jan. 26.
Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter’s executive order said the measure would end 40 days after January 19 or at the end of the local emergency, whichever occurs first, if it is not extended or rescinded. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey did not disclose a possible end date.
“The proof of vaccination measure comes in close consultation with public health partners at Saint Paul-Ramsey County Public Health as COVID-19 case rates in Ramsey County continue to climb, driven by the highly transmissible Delta and Omicron variants,” a news release from Carter’s office said.
Frey said this step is critical for avoiding closures.
“The surge in COVID cases across our city is causing pile-ups at testing sites and is overwhelming our hospitals and our health care workers, and the data is exceedingly clear that more is needed to keep our city safe while we weather this highly contagious variant,” Frey said in the conference.
According to the Saint Paul executive order, the test results must come from a verifiable PCR or antigen test that lab technicians conducted within the prior 72 hours. Proof of completed vaccination series (2 Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna doses or the Johnson & Johnson single dose) must be presented on a CDC-approved card, a photo of the card, or a government-approved record of vaccination. A photo ID is also required, unless the visitor is a minor.
The Minneapolis executive order specified the mandate applies to venues including restaurants, bars, movie theaters, catering halls, and bowling alleys. Schools, hospitals, soup kitchens, congregate care facilities, convenience stores, grocery stores and any location where food or drink is consumed as part of a religious practice are exempt.
Children under age five are exempt from these restrictions in Saint Paul. In Minneapolis, children ages two to four need to test negative while children under age two are exempt.
Hospitality Minnesota President and CEO Liz Rammer told The Center Square in an emailed statement that the organization finds the announcement disheartening.
“We share their grave concern for the public’s health and safety,” she said. “Yet, this new vaccine and testing mandate for businesses serving food and beverages adds another enormous challenge for hospitality business as our operators struggle with historic labor shortages and a stalled economic recovery, as reported in our recent survey on business conditions. Once again, the burden is being placed on businesses to enforce this additional mandate, putting them at a further competitive disadvantage and in a difficult position with the public and their frontline workers.”
Rammer said it is crucial that both mayors are “absolutely clear” about what metrics are required to lift the mandates as they put the measure into place.
Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association Executive Director Tony Chesak said in a statement that the association, which represents small, family owned liquor retailers, treats the pandemic and public health seriously and has complied with all mandates and regulations, but this mandate is “unjustified and unscientific.”
“It targets just one specific industry after zero science or data driving the decision, and zero caring about our dedicated front-line workers who will now add ‘enforcement agent’ to their plate,” Chesak said. “The only scientific thing we know is that it has devastated the hospitality industry in other cities with these same mandates. They say we’re in this together - but this mandate shows that the hospitality industry is clearly targeted alone. We know both vaccinated and unvaccinated people spread the virus. And it happens at schools, work-out facilities, other retailers, sporting events, and more.”
The Minneapolis news release said people should call 311 to report violations. Violations can be enforced through warning letters, administrative citations, adverse license action against City-licensed business and misdemeanors, under Minneapolis Code of Ordinances § 1.30 and 259.250, the executive order said.