By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hospitality groups in Minnesota are criticizing the governor’s expected actions of continuing the indoor dining pause, saying the “shameful” restrictions are not supported by the state’s COVID-19 data.

On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Tim Walz is announcing updates to the current dial-back restrictions set in place last month to curb rising virus cases and to prevent an overload of the state’s hospitals. It was set to expire Friday. However, a Walz representative on Tuesday said that the governor will be continuing the pause on indoor dining.

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Hospitality Minnesota released a statement Wednesday morning following reports of Walz’s expected announcement, saying it is “gravely disappointed” by the decision.

“Since March, we have been at the table, in good faith, making the case that hospitality businesses are able to operate safely, balancing public health and economic viability. The state’s very own data supports our case, and they have been unwilling and unable to show us the analysis that says otherwise. As you will see in the attached letter we, again, made an ardent plea to the Governor to allow businesses to open up to 50% when the most recent closure order was set to expire on Friday,” Hospitality Minnesota said.

The group is pleading to the governor to reconsider the closure extension.

“The tide is turning, as we have witnessed all week as more and more businesses are willing out of desperation to risk fines and penalties to save their livelihoods,” Hospitality Minnesota said. “Hospitality is a force for good in our communities, and the Governor and his administration would be wise to leverage that force, rather than watch it flicker out.”

The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association (MLBA) also issued a statement, calling the decision “shameful and unjust.” Read the entire statement from MLBA Director Tony Chesak.

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“Today’s news is not only devastating, it’s shameful and unjust,” Chesak said. “Minnesota’s hospitality industry has complied in good faith with mask mandates, limited service, and yet has only seen 1.76% of COVID cases tracked back to bars and restaurants. The data driving the decisions is not transparent to the public and isn’t being used to make our collective actions smarter or safer for all involved. Governor Walz’s order continues blanket rules that are resulting in the near elimination of an entire industry, employing thousands of Minnesotans. The paltry offering of limited outdoor dining in the middle of a Minnesota winter doesn’t even begin to make up for the forced closures. While Governor Walz’s dials turn, more and more of Minnesota’s restaurants and bars will be forced [to] turn their lights off permanently.”

Attorney General Keith Ellison reiterated the importance for businesses to comply with the executive order’s parameters, saying that while he knows COVID-19 is both a health and an economic crisis, businesses that don’t adhere to the restrictions put people’s lives at risk.

“People will get sick and die because of you. Not only from COVID-19: if someone has a heart attack or a stroke or a car accident and dies because they can’t get an ICU bed that’s being used by someone who got COVID at your establishment, or got it from someone who got it at your establishment, that death is also on you,” Ellison said.

Ellison reminded of the authority his office and other city and county attorney offices have to investigate and penalize those businesses that defy the executive order, including injunctive relief and civil penalties up to $25,000 per occurrance.

Teddy Tschann, the governor’s communications director, said Tuesday night that Walz will unveil a strategy “that prioritizes in-person learning for elementary students and continues to protect health care capacity by keeping indoor dining at bars and restaurants on pause through the holiday season.”

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Tschann also says Gov. Walz’s plan, which he will announce Wednesday at 1:15 p.m., will “help bridge the gap to vaccination.”

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