Isle Muni

Gov. Walz imposes new limits on bars, restaurants, gatherings as COVID cases increase

Gov. Tim Walz further extended his executive orders last week to begin on Friday, Nov. 13 at 10 p.m. in attempts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Walz cites “outbreaks connected to social gatherings, events, weddings, funerals and late night bar and restaurant hours” as being the primary cause of COVID-19 spread.

As of Monday, Nov. 16, Minnesota has had 2,873 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 and 231,018 positive cases.

No known source for majority of traced cases

Though the new orders target social gatherings, the Minnesota Department of Health website currently reports that the vast majority of cases, 111,919 cases in fact, have unknown origins of exposure. While only 11,842 of the total cases are linked specifically to community outbreaks. See graph for additionally traced case numbers.

The orders state that Minnesota bars and restaurants must stop serving at 10 p.m., and attendance at weddings, funerals and social gatherings will be limited to 50 people and cannot not take place between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., effective Nov. 27. The order also restricts bar seating.

Isle Muni closes doors until spring

This new order, along with the previous executive order capping capacity, has forced the Isle Municipal Bar into closure until April 1, 2021. The Isle Municipal Liquor Store will remain open.

At the most recent Isle City Council meeting, the council made the determination to close the bar because of financial strains. The bar portion of the Muni was first closed in March and then opened again over the Fourth of July. That opening was short-lived, lasting only two to three weeks and was forced to be closed because of lack of staffing.

The bar reopened again on Labor Day weekend and has been open until just last week when COVID cases started to pummel the community.

Isle City Clerk Jamie Hubbell said, “We did not have any cases within our staff, but we had COVID positive people still coming into the bar when they should have been quarantining, ultimately making us have to close since they could not be responsible adults and stay home. We just couldn’t risk the exposure of our staff and other patrons.”

She added that the plan is to remain closed until April 1, 2021, or until the city council reviews the situation and makes a unanimous decision to open sooner. “We will just offer the best off-sale service we can in the interim,” said Hubbell.

Due to increasing COVID cases, other area bars have had to temporarily close. Many have since reopened, some with limited hours.

Some local bars and restaurants weigh in

Bob Koelfgen, owner of Beckham’s Bar & Bistro, said that they will comply with the Governor’s updated orders, but it will be difficult with the size of their building and cold weather impacting outdoor seating. “If this goes until January, we may have to close entirely,” said Koelfgen. “Basically, in the winter, you’re just keeping your staff and not making any money. We’ll take it day by day, but this is not a good thing for businesses like ours.”

Rob Dubbs, co-owner of Muggs on Mille Lacs, said that with the number of COVID cases exploding in the area, their only choice is to act responsibly and follow the order while asking that their customers would do the same. However, Dubbs said that this is an incredibly stressful time for the hospitality industry and it will be very difficult for some businesses to make it through financially.

Dubbs said he was grateful to the City of Wahkon but concurs with Koelfgen that the cold weather will create hardship with lack of outdoor seating. “I encourage people to frequent as many of the bars and restaurants as they can this winter, especially during non-peak hours,” noted Dubbs. “This will help ensure that we all have places to go out to when things get back to normal.”

A trade group that represents bars, restaurants and liquor stores was quick to criticize the new restrictions.

“Unfairly singling out every bar and every restaurant in Minnesota is not a scalpel – it’s a hatchet targeting one of Minnesota’s hardest hit industries this year ... These new blanket rules across the state will cause more businesses to close, leaving more people unemployed and unable to support their families,” Tony Chesak, executive director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, said in a statement.

More on Walz’s recent executive order

Effective Dec. 11, at 10 p.m., celebrations, receptions, and gatherings that offer food or beverages (including alcoholic beverages) for on-premises consumption or that permit food or beverages to be consumed on-premises must not exceed 25 people.

The new order also states that all social gatherings are limited to 10 people from not more than three households, even if social distancing can be maintained. Prohibited gatherings do not include commercial activity by workers and customers of critical and non-critical businesses and does not include persons in places of public accommodation that are following the requirements and limitations. Organizers of prohibited social gatherings may be subject to appropriate enforcement action by city, county, and/or state authorities.

Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, bars, taverns, brewer taprooms, micro distiller cocktail rooms, farm wineries, craft wineries, cideries, golf courses and clubs, dining clubs, tobacco product shops, and other places of public accommodation offering food, beverages (including alcoholic beverages), or tobacco products for on-premises consumption, may provide indoor and outdoor service, provided that they allow no more than 50% of the occupancy with a maximum occupancy of 150 people.

For establishments that offer outdoor seating, the combined total occupancy of all indoor and outdoor spaces must not exceed 150 people. All establishments must close and remain closed each day for on-premises consumption between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. The businesses may remain open for delivery service, window service, walk-up service, or drive-up services.

The order may be enforced by charging individuals who willfully violate the executive order with a misdemeanor, and, if convicted, a fine not to exceed $1,000 or with imprisonment of not more than 90 days. Any business owner, manager or supervisors who requires their employees to violate this order is guilty of a gross misdemeanor and, if convicted, must be punished with a fine not to exceed $3,000 or with imprisonment for not more than a year. In addition to these criminal penalties, the Minnesota attorney general, as well as city and county attorneys may investigate and seek any civil relief up to $25,000.

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