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Governor Allows Partial Patio Dining in Minnesota, Instead of Reopening Restaurants

With St. Paul reportedly refusing patio permits, and unpredictable weather, independent eateries are up against the ropes

cst 25515 Gov. Walz press conference
Governor Walz at a podium
Scott Takushi, pool / Getty Images

In yesterday’s COVID-19 address, Governor Walz was expected to expand upon opening guidelines for restaurants amid mounting COVID-19 infection rates. Instead the allowance continues to keep dining rooms closed completely, and instead allow for patios to open at half capacity. This leaves restaurants without exsisting patio space to contend with a continued closure and little relief.
Some restaurants like Hope Breakfast Bar would like to create larger, safer outdoor spaces for diners, but say that the city of Saint Paul is currently denying all permits for patios. The Blue Plate Group, which owns neighborhood eateries like the Highland Grill, Edina Grill, Longfellow Grill, Groveland Tao, and Three Squares, have called on the cities to close down streets and expand outdoor serving capacity for restaurants.

Meanwhile, a new month beginning means a fresh round of rent, power, and other unending bills for these small businesses who report receiving no where near enough economic relief.

The silver lining for some businesses is that the patio provision allows for some taprooms and distilleries with patio space to begin to serve in a limited capacity. That’s great news for someplace like Surly Brewing, with its expansive patio, but then, how does that staffing work? And what happens if it rains?

Dining on patios can only be at half capacity, will require reservations, and servers will be required to wear masks, diners are asked to wear masks when not actively eating.

This is only the first phase of reopening, there is no recognized timeline for phase two of the state’s plan to reopen restaurants. At that time dining rooms are expected to finally, partially open to diners.