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Mayor Jacob Frey Announces Bar Areas Must Close Again Due To COVID-19 Spread

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Bars and restaurants in Minneapolis must reconfigure once again in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. Service at the bar will end beginning Saturday afternoon.

"By focusing on bar areas that are proven to be hotbeds for congregation and community spread, we can help keep both Minneapolis and Minnesotans safe and help keep trends stable," Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said.

Frey announced the emergency regulation Wednesday afternoon, saying the city cannot wait until it's too late to act. The city cited at least a dozen places connected to COVID-19 outbreaks among customers or workers since reopening last month and it's now affecting all establishments.

"If I could tell the mayor anything, I would say this: please go talk to the offenders, take care of the people who are breaking the rules and not necessarily make this one size fits all," Stephanie Shimp, co-owner of Freehouse with Blue Plate Restaurant Group said.

Shimp says they'll take a hit, losing roughly 20% of current business, which is still down since re-opening. If people are coming inside, they're sitting at the bar.

The new regulation does not mean that bars and restaurants have to close. Customers just can't be served at the bar itself. Businesses can add tables and seating to the bar area. Some guests support it.

"I think to try things is a good idea. I mean might as well give it a go to see if it helps, and if not, maybe try something different," Rachel Leapley said.

Ordering at a table inside or out is the only option beginning at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The emergency regulation will be in effect indefinitely.

Hospitality Minnesota, an association of restaurants, resorts and campgrounds, said the mayor's emergency regulation paints with too broad a brush.

"This action creates another difficult challenge for establishments that continue to be fragile in the wake of the long closure and partial reopening," said Liz Rammer, the CEO of Hospitality Minnesota, in a statement.

The group says that it recently conducted a survey of its members, finding that nearly 80% of establishments are serving below or well below capacity -- even while operating under new restrictions. "If these conditions persist," Rammer said, "they told us nearly 50% of their businesses will be shuttered within six months."

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