MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday the "phased plan" for bars, restaurants and other businesses to reopen next month.
Under the plan, restaurants will be able to host outdoor dining starting June 1, provided that social distancing is enforced. No more than 50 patrons may be seated at a time, tables must have at least 6 feet between them, and parties are limited to four (or, if everyone's in the same family, six).
Reservations will be required, and all workers must be wearing masks.
"They are integral not just to our economy ... they make life just a lot better," Walz said. "While the virus won't yet allow for business as usual, let's do what we do best after winter in Minnesota and head outside. Whether it's a Jucy Lucy, a plate of tamales, or a walleye dinner, Minnesotans can support their local restaurant by enjoying a socially distanced meal outdoors."
Walz added that he's trying to slowly ramp up social activities and businesses, so as to avoid having the virus "boil over."
The City of Minneapolis reported that they will be allowing a permit for a temporary expansion of premises for the restaurants that don't currently have a permit for patio space. Cities like Lakeville had already announced they would waive permit rules for outdoor patios in parking lots and green space.
Salons will also be able to open at the start of the month, given that they reduce capacity to 25% and have staff wear personal protective equipment.
As for gyms and fitness centers, restrictions will remain in place. Also, places of worship must continue to remain as they have for the last number of weeks. Only gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed in Minnesota. According to the state's plan, in the next phase churches will be allowed to have outdoor services with a limit of only 100 people, who will need to be socially distanced and wearing masks.
Walz noted that the decision-making process surrounding how to handle religious ceremonies has been one of the biggest struggles, along with graduation ceremonies. He said he understands the strong sense of urgency to figure worship out.
The final phase of reopening is when festivals, sporting events and large concerts would be allowed again, and there is no date set for that.
"It's important for all Minnesotans to remember that they have a big role to play in making this reopening process successful," Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. "By continuing to follow social distancing guidelines, wearing masks, washing hands, and staying home when sick, we can limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect our most vulnerable friends and family members."
The new rules are part of Walz's Stay Safe Minnesota order, which went into effect earlier this week, replacing the stay-at-home order that kept restaurants and other businesses closed for weeks.
Since mid-March, restaurants have had to reduce business to takeout or delivery. Several Twin Cities restaurants have closed permanently, the latest being Burger Jones in Minneapolis.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt issued a statement in response to Walz's announcements: "What is the science that allows indoor salon services but restricts restaurants to outdoor seating? Why are churches limited to 10 people outdoors while hundreds of people can gather in the aisles of big box stores? Many of our Main Street businesses cannot afford to wait until June 1st. Outdoor seating at bars and restaurants should begin immediately -- we need to trust our businesses to protect the health and safety of employees and customers."
The governor's office also said that he signed an executive order recently that would prevent workers from being fired for refusing to work in unsafe conditions.
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