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'We Always Figure It Out': Restaurant Owners Have Days To Get Ready For New COVID Rules

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Restaurants in Minneapolis and St. Paul are scrambling, trying to figure out how the new COVID-19 vaccine mandate will work for them and their customers.

Starting Wednesday, customers in both cities will need to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test. That leaves many business owners with just six days to comply with the new mandate.

Katherine Pardue, co-owner of Hark Cafe, has asked her customers for proof of vaccination since August.

"It wasn't a decision that was about giving us a competitive edge as a business; it was about the health and safety of our staff and our customers," Pardue said.

Her downtown business was one of the first to require vaccination if eating inside. Customers coming to pick up food or drink have been asked to wear a mask.

"Ultimately what is best for our business is for the COVID pandemic to become less of an issue," Pardue said.

Pardue made change to keep people safe, but at the same time her business increased almost 30%. An influx of out-of-town cafe-goers is behind the push in sales.

"People are contacting us saying, 'We are coming from out of town,' from places like New York, D.C., Chicago, 'where there are a lot more requirements, and you were the only place we could find,'" Pardue said.

In North Minneapolis, since the pandemic hit, community support has been key in keeping the doors open at Sammy's Eatery.

"God kept us open before so he is going to keep us open again," manager Eureka Johnson said. "Just like last time, we are going to roll with it. We are going to do what we have to do and we are going to keep on serving these good Sammy's sandwiches."

Johnson says figuring out how to handle the new mandate is a challenge.

"Unfortunately we haven't figured that out yet, but we always figure it out. We just kind of go with the flow and we make it work," Johnson said.

Making it work is what Pardue has also done. She hopes to help other small business owners make it work for them.

"We are so happy to share with people what we have learned. We've been doing it since August. It's going to be OK," Pardue said.

The hospitality and beverage industry reps say they believe the new mandate targets only their businesses and believes it will hurt small business, not help.

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