KSTP & Callan Gray
Updated: July 29, 2020 10:11 PM
Created: July 29, 2020 10:22 AM
Wednesday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey issued an order closing indoor bar areas of drinking and dining establishments in the city.
Frey told reporters that the order, Emergency Regulation 2020-17, is meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Frey noted the Minneapolis Health Department is reporting a rate of 18 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 per day while the statewide rate has remained closer to 11 per 100,000. Public health experts said more than 50% of new cases in the city are in young adults congregating at bars and with friends and family.
“In Minneapolis alone we know of at least nine bars that have been tied to patron outbreaks, at least three bars have been tied to employee outbreaks,” said Mayor Frey. “A night out at the bar is too often leading to nights in the hospital for family or friends.”
Prior to Frey's announcement, state regulations for reopening required all patrons to sit socially distant at the bar and banned congregating in inside areas, including the bar.
The Health Department said on Tuesday, it's conducted three full sweeps on Minneapolis bars since June 1, including 59 inspections at 26 businesses. They found a variety of violations including a lack of social distancing, tables spaced too close together, and people dancing.
"Across the country we've seen data clearly show that a night out at the bar is leading to nights in the hospital for family, friends, and neighbors," said Frey. "By focusing on bar areas, which are proven to be hot beds for congregation and community spread, we can help keep Minneapolis trends stable. That commitment to public health gives us the best shot at both protecting frontline workers – a disproportionate share of whom are people of color – and keeping our businesses open."
A number of bars and restaurants in the metro have voluntarily temporarily closed recently because of COVID-19.
It's important to note, the order doesn't force businesses to close but rather prevents people from ordering drinks at the bar. It also prevents people from sitting at the bar.
The order goes into effect at 5 p.m. on Aug. 1.
In addition to bars and restaurants, it includes taprooms, distilleries and nightclubs. The city said the order will affect about 640 businesses.
Table seating, including high-tops, will be allowed under the regulation as long as patrons follow the existing state guidance limiting it to four people per table or six if they're from the same household or family.
Frey also said at least nine bars in the city have met the state's definition of patron outbreak, with at least seven patrons testing positive. At least three bars have met the definition of a workplace outbreak, with at least three employees testing positive.
"National experts have recommended the consideration of closure of indoor bar areas," said Minneapolis Health Commissioner Gretchen Musicant. "Local public health data and information from sweeps conducted by City Environmental Health inspectors supports taking that action to stem the rise of cases."
It's being criticized by business owners who are already hurting under the existing restrictions.
“We are barely hanging on,” said Tim Mahoney, co-owner of the Loon Café in Minneapolis. “Thirty-nine years of business. We had a wonderful day yesterday with the home opener, were we busy, we were okay but the excitement was there. It was something I got up in the morning and thought hey you know I got something to look forward to but by that afternoon, when I found out what Mayor Frey was going to do, it was like someone stabbed me in the heart.”
He told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they already have limited seating under the reopening guidelines. Requiring bar patrons to sit at restaurant tables will futher reduce the number of people they're able to serve, he said.
Mahoney believes the city should instead focus on those who have violated the Governor's executive order.
“We know who they are so why don’t you go to them and say listen this is the situation, you’re not following the regulations set forth by the governor and our city so if you do not do this we’re going to shut you down,” said Mahoney.
Frey told reporters, “When you institute regulations like this you're not doing it for the 95 percent of bar owners that are doing the right thing anyway, we're doing it for the five percent that are not. This is an important step to limit community spread.”
Business owners with questions can find more information at 612-673-2080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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