Other Opinion: Restaurants must follow COVID-19 rules


With the relaxing of some of Minnesota’s executive orders restricting gatherings and some business operations during COVID-19, we are also seeing some people who have relaxed their own standards, too.

In particular, we implore our local restaurants and pubs to be diligent in following social distancing and face mask guidelines, and to encourage their patrons to do the same.

If a COVID-19 “second wave” is on the horizon, then now is not the time to fall back.

Since Gov. Tim Walz on June 10 entered Phase III of his “turning the dial” method on reopening business in Minnesota, we have heard from two readers (so far) who are concerned about restaurants that are not following the governor’s orders and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

As a reminder, here are the state’s requirements for restaurants and bars that are open or are opening now:


  • Location: Service allowed indoors and outdoors.
  • Capacity: Eating/drinking establishments can operate only at 50% capacity, not to exceed 250 individuals for indoors and outdoors settings each. The 6-feet of social distancing should be observed for customers.
  • Reservations: Required.
  • Face masks: Required for employees, and strongly recommended for customers.

Our callers were both concerned by the lax use of face masks by employees, which are required -- that means the masks should cover the mouth and nose. We have seen kitchen workers with no masks, or bartenders or servers with masks under their noses.
That is a violation of the order.

The reservations, too, are required, but may not be used in all cases. The goal here is to manage how many people are seated so that restaurants can stay in the 50% capacity range. In addition, reservations will keep a long waiting line from forming -- the kind of spontaneous line that won’t allow for social distancing.

Bars and restaurants are under intense pressure this summer. Their bills are piling up with no income for months; their food inventory may have expired, causing a waste of money; they are missing out on the lakes area’s normally vibrant summer tourist season.

But now is not the time to get careless, casual or bored. In fact, as all of us start going out and mingling again, we have to be even more aware of all of those precautions we began taking in March (remember: no hand-shaking, and wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds).

We encourage customers, as well, to follow these guidelines. Call ahead to see if the restaurant can take your party, and when. Wear your mask until your party is seated and distanced. Quietly mention to your server or a manager if you see an employee who needs a reminder.

Walz’s next phase of reopening, Phase IV, has no target date. For restaurants, Phase IV means only “potential for increased capacity.” No more detail than that.

Fighting the spread of COVID-19 is a work in progress. It would be a shame to lose that progress because we aren’t adhering to the basic requests that allow us to have open restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters and shops.

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