By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Starting 2021 as husband and wife was the plan for Samantha Lee and her fiancé Alex.

“New Year’s Eve this year just kind of has felt like our date,” she said, a date they chose in May 2019.

The couple had already trimmed the guest list once to fit COVID-19 restrictions, dialing back from around 250 to under 100. They even ordered custom masks and hand sanitizer for guests.

But the new COVID-19 restrictions announced Tuesday might be the last straw. Starting Nov. 27, wedding receptions will be limited to 50 people maximum, then just 25 people on Dec. 11. Receptions must also end by 10 p.m., two hours earlier than the big New Year’s Eve celebration Lee had planned.

She said finding a 2021 date at the same venue has proven difficult.

“I don’t want to go through with a 25-person wedding while paying for the venue, but I can’t even imagine like spending a whole other year re-planning everything,” Lee said. “I don’t know what we’re going to do. I have some many things printed and ordered with our date.”

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Mintahoe Catering and Events hosts wedding receptions at eight venues across the Twin Cities. A spokesperson said the new restrictions will definitely hurt their business, but that the safety of staff, clients and guests is their first priority.

When asked if the new restrictions were unfair, the spokesman said,” I don’t know. I do know that it’s unfortunate.”

The Minnesota Department of Health said there have been 111 COVID-19 outbreaks traced back to weddings this year, leading to at least 851 cases.

Mintahoe said there are times when guests at its venues have been forgetful about wearing masks, but enforcing the rules hasn’t been an issue.

“We have curbed that with signage, buttons that our staff wear to remind people to wear masks because we want to stay open and in business, and regular announcements on the house microphones reminding guests to socially distance. It has worked very well for us,” the spokesperson said.

Lee said they were preparing to take COVID-19 precautions to another level for her wedding.

“We were considering, strongly considering once we had our final RSVPs in to reach out to everyone, ask them if they would get a COVID test prior to the wedding within 48 hours,” she said.

Bars and restaurants are preparing to adjust capacity limits and hours as well. Starting Friday, they must be closed to dine-in customers by 10 p.m. The new capacity limit is 50% at no more than 150 people maximum.

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MDH said at least 2,406 COVID-19 cases have been traced back to bars and restaurants since they reopened in early June. Some people aren’t surprised to hear more restrictions are happening given the large spike in community spread, but they wonder if the restaurant industry is being unfairly targeted.

“People are getting lax on the masks and are exhausted from not being able to see people they care about, whether it’s in an establishment or in their own home,” said Elise Riverness of St. Paul.

Blarney Pub in Minneapolis’s Dinkytown district has been able to avoid a COVID-19 breakout since it reopened in September. Owner Mike Mulrooney said closing by 10 p.m. instead of 2 a.m. will significantly cut down on business since many of his customers are college students stopping in for a late-night drink or food.

He also believes that the virus will continue to spread whether people are in his bar or not. In fact, Mulrooney feels his restaurant is a safe option since they’re already following state guidelines.

“We have some control in the bars and restaurants, and we can observe behavior and correct behavior as we’ve done,” Mulrooney said. “Whereas if they’re out at a house party or in their house or in their apartment gathering together in large groups, that isn’t under control and it isn’t a controlled environment.”

Jeff Wagner

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