MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — If you can brave the cold, you can grab a bite to eat outside — but indoor dining areas will be off limits through the holidays.
Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday that indoor service at restaurants, bars and breweries will stay closed through Jan. 11. But some businesses are choosing not to listen.
The door opened at Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville before noon Wednesday. Owner Lisa Zarza said there were no restrictions inside.
Late Wednesday evening, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division announced that it intends to suspend Alibi’s liquor license for 60 days for blatantly violating the executive order.
“We had people waiting for us to open, we had cars in the lot at 10:45,” Zarza said.
People were occasionally shoulder-to-shoulder, reminiscent of pre-COVID-19 times. Kevin Amundson was on hand for the re-opening.
“It’s nice to finally be able to go out and meet people and pay too much for a beer I have at home,” Amundson said.
Zarza said she’d had enough with state orders.
“There’s no way we could make it another two months not opening,” Zarza said. “It’s scary, but enough is enough, and we’re standing up.”
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Wednesday evening that his office will go after businesses that violate the governor’s executive order.
“You’re putting people at risk,” Ellison said. “People will get sick and die because of you.”
His office said it will hold establishments accountable, and estimated only a handful violated the order Wednesday — of more than a hundred that had signed on to do so. Indoor dining will stay closed, for now.
Officials with the department of public safety also announced Wednesday night that it will suspend the liquor license of Neighbors on the Rum, located in Princeton, for 60 days. The Minnesota Department of Health also says Mission Tavern in Crow Wing County will face a $10,000 penalty for “repeated non-compliance with Executive Order 20-99.” Its license will also be suspended.
DPS says local law enforcement went to other restaurants and bars Wednesday that had announced their intent to violate the order in Becker, Cottage Grove, Mankato and Red Wing — but all were closed.
Most businesses are complying, including Jax Café in northeast Minneapolis, owned by Bill Kozlak.
“It crushes business without a doubt,” Kozlak said. “We’re going to have our worst year ever by a long, long shot.”
He says December is the month many in the restaurant business rely on.
“This is our bread and butter,” Kozlak said. “Every day is a Saturday this time of year.”
Kozlak says they hoped for more. He says there is too much uncertainly in outdoor dining, and it doesn’t make sense to open seating at limited capacity.
“I might not open my inside for a 100 people, let alone my outside in this weather,” Kozlak said.
He says his customers have been supportive, and Jax is preparing holiday to-go meals.
Beginning on Friday, outdoor dining can resume at 50% capacity. Tents can be used, as long as two sides of the enclosure remain open.