By Erin Hassanzadeh

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka gathered with restaurant and bar owners Thursday to air frustrations about the continuing restrictions on dining inside, as other restrictions will loosen Friday.

Jeff LaBeau owns the Depot Bar & Grill in Faribault.

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“I feel like I’m on the Titanic, and this governor is making us a third-class citizen that has to be in the bottom of the ship,” LaBeau said.

Jean Hunn owns Keys Cafe & Bakery in St. Paul.

“To tell our employees they just need to wait it out, we’ll be OK — that’s not the case,” Hunn said.

Gazelka says there’s a better way to handle the COVID-19 crisis without crushing business.

“The cries are so loud, and we are standing up with them to say we have to figure out a way,” Gazelka said.

He wants more local control and coordination with impacted businesses.

State Sen. Paul Gazelka (credit: CBS)

“We’re here to bring hope, and it’s hope that they can make it through this and hope that we can convince the governor and the attorney general that they have to relent,” Gazelka said.

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Some at the gathering said that the outdoor dining option is far-fetched.

“Telling us we can open up outside is just a slap in the face,” Hunn said. “It’s like you’re mocking us.”

But some are going to try it. Mill Valley Market, located inside Theodore Wirth Park, is hoping to bring in skiers and bikers fresh off the trails. Timothy McKenna is the director of operations with Northern Hospitality.

“We believe in Minnesotans. We’re true hearty, we’re the bold north, right?” McKenna said.

Customers order at a service window, then pick up their food when it’s ready. They can sit on the patio next to fire pits. The move won’t bring more staff back, and may not make a ton of money. But with recent sales down at least 80%, McKenna said they have to try something.

“We’re hopeful that now that we have the outdoor space opening up Saturday that we’re just going to be rip-roaring like we were,” McKenna said.

Mill Valley Market’s Theodore Wirth Park Trailhead location opens the patio this Saturday and will be open Friday through Sundays for now, with plans to expand hours after the holidays. They will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Click here for a list of restaurants and taprooms that are opening this weekend for outdoor dining.

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Erin Hassanzadeh