From Twins to taverns, big changes ahead as Walz loosens pandemic restrictions

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Target Field is quiet for now, but a little "open" sign on the Minnesota Twins merchandise store outside, is perhaps a symbol of new beginnings.

"Today feels like a great spring day," says Leah Wong, the vice-president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council. "This is definitely a step in the right direction for what we need downtown."

Gov. Tim Walz on Friday said the drop in COVID-19 cases and the increase in vaccinations statewide allows for a loosening of restrictions starting Monday.

"Minnesota ranks near the bottom in deaths per hundred thousand. We rank near the bottom in infections per hundred thousand," he told reporters. "We rank near the top, second earlier this week, in terms of getting the vaccinations out."

One of the biggest changes will be at Target Field and other professional sports venues that have sat mostly empty for months. A maximum of 10,000 fans will be permitted to attend the Twins home opener on April 8.

Latest loosening of statewide COVID-19 restrictions addresses gatherings, venues

"Twins fans have been patient," said Dave St. Peter, the team’s president and CEO. "Obviously we had a truncated 2020 season in front of no fans. The thought of having fans back in our ballpark is something that’s excited our players, our manager and all of our staff."

That’s good news for a downtown that’s seen many businesses close or restrict access because of the pandemic.

The Minneapolis Downtown Council says major sports venues are a huge drive for business.

"We have about 200 restaurants and retailers that have been open in some capacity, which is strong and we see that number growing with this guidance," Wong said.

Under the order, restaurants and bars will be allowed to operate at 75% capacity.

But there’s a wrinkle for smaller venues, which may not have the space to allow for 6-foot safe distancing.

"Obviously, really small operations don’t have the room to add you know, 6-foot social distancing to be able to put additional tables in there," Hospitality Minnesota president and CEO Liz Rammer said.

Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said there was plenty of good news Friday — and that means it’s time for a political change too.

"We renew our demand that the governor remove his emergency powers so that we can work together, hand in hand," Gazelka said.