Social distancing will be new reality in bars, restaurants

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Dermot Cowley's Irish pub in downtown Minneapolis was stocked with beer and liquor, ready for the busiest day of the year on St. Patrick's Day. Then came the coronavirus and an order from Gov. Tim Walz to close all bars and restaurants on March 17.

"Every bar owner, Irish pub owner, is always nervous leading into St. Patrick's Day, is this the year that my Irish pub is the one that's not busy on St. Patrick's Day," Cowley said.

But he had no idea what was about to come for his O'Donovan's Irish Pub.

"We have a lot of booze and a lot of beer we brought in for St. Paddy's Day so maybe June 17 or July 17 we'll have a St. Patrick's [Day], just a little delayed," Cowley told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, only half-jokingly.

The governor's current 'stay at home' order runs through May 4, but there are no guarantee bars and restaurants will be able to open after that date.

So, Cowley is using the downtime to prepare his bar for a re-opening under what he expects will be new rules for "social distancing" inside and even outside on the patio. He'll likely have to remove some tables and bar stools and give his customers more room.

He's also working with some of his employees who volunteered to help him refurbish the bar top, bar stools and tables and freshen up the Irish decor.

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Cowley had to lay off 15 employees when O'Donovan's was forced to close.

"I talked to a lot of our employees and it seems like everybody's got their unemployment and even got the federal stimulus additional money so that's a relief to know that they're okay," Cowley said.

Meanwhile, Cowley has applied for a small business loan to help his business survive but is still waiting for a reply from the government.

He's also getting nervous about whether the Minnesota Twins season will be canceled because O'Donovan's is just a block from Target Field.

"That would be devastating not only to ourselves but a lot of bars and restaurants in town if Major League Baseball had to abandon the season," he said.

Meanwhile, he's keeping a positive attitude and even learned how to use a power tool to put a new finish on the O'Donovan's bar top.

"Nice, shiny, new bar," Cowley said while admiring the dark wood veneer. "Three weeks ago I had no idea what a belt sander was. Today … anybody needs a job done, call me. I'm available."