COVID-19 restrictions in the area – and around the state – were lifted Monday after Gov. Tim Walz agreed to ease limits on businesses Jan. 6.

Walz said in a press conference Jan. 6 that he would allow bars and restaurants to resume limited indoor service starting Monday as he also loosens up Minnesota’s coronavirus restrictions on youth sports, gyms, entertainment venues and churches.

The dialing back returns bars and restaurants about to where they were before the governor imposed a “pause” in response to soaring cases in November that kept them closed through the holiday season except for takeout and delivery service.

Starting Monday, restaurants and bars can open at 50% capacity, with no more six people to a table or parties of two seated at the bar. Parties must be distanced six feet apart. A 10 p.m. service cutoff will remain in place.

Indoor entertainment venues such as movie theaters, bowling alleys and museums can reopen at 25% capacity for a maximum of 150 people. Gyms remain capped at 25% of capacity but the number of people allowed in will rise to 150, with classes allowed to resume for up to 25 people. Youth sports games can resume under indoor venue limits of 25% of capacity for a maximum of 150 spectators.

Places of worship can continue to hold services at 50% of capacity, but the cap of 250 worshippers will be lifted.

Meanwhile, a local restaurant that tried to work around the restrictions and come up with a creative solution was forced to shut its outdoor dining last week.

Palisade Cafe 2.0 in Palisade decided to use its outdoor smoking area for outdoor seating, using heaters to warm the space and plastic on one side to keep warm air inside the dining area.

Owner Cory Eken said that the restaurant received notice from the Aitkin County Environmental Services that if the space was being used for outdoor dining, it did not comply with what was then the current executive order.

The patio, Eken said, had been open for just a few days.

“We got the email that there had been a complaint Jan. 5,” he explained. “I think we opened on the fourth. We didn’t even make it two whole days.”

Eken said the porch is normally considered outdoor space for smoking, and was confused that the space would now be considered indoor space.

“Honestly, we thought we were doing everything correct,” Eken said.

The restaurant returned its takeout menu for the rest of last week, looking forward to the reopening Monday. Under new ownership, the cafe had been open for just two weeks before the governor’s “pause” order came through. “I’m super excited. My staff is excited,” Eken said about finally being able to open. “I just want people to be able to come and enjoy it. It’s never the same thing when you drive it home.”

He said he’s interested to see how people react after 10 months of on-and-off restrictions.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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