By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Saturday was “day one” of outdoor dining again for Minnesota restaurants. Gov. Tim Walz extended the pause on indoor dining through Jan. 10.

But bars and restaurants that are able to serve outdoors now can at 50% capacity with a maximum of 100 people. WCCO talked with outdoor diners who think that braving the cold is worth it for their favorite meals.

The Grocer’s Table in Wayzata had room for only a few reserved spaces outdoors, complete with your own fire pit, heat lamp, and blankets. Groups there are kept six feet apart.

“You know, I’ve got a father in the hospital with COVID-19, so I get it. But at the same time, we’re careful and we’ve been just fine,” Todd Snell said.

At The Block in St. Louis Park, a year-round heated floor patio was already in place, but typically the retractable doors come down for winter. Not so this time.

The state’s order says the outdoor dining can’t be fully enclosed, meaning even restaurants that had previously set up things like igloos aren’t usable right now. So it was open window patio dining at The Block.

“We asked our team and first thought it was cuckoo, but we put it on social media and people really wanted to come out and support us,” owner Luke Derheim said.

Derheim said just some type of outdoor dining can boost their sales by as much as 20%. Almost all of their reservations were booked for Saturday.

“We know it’s been so hard for them, so we jumped on the opportunity to be here right when we could,” Snell said.

Still restaurant owners are hoping there will be more guidance after the holidays end.

“January is a tough month for restaurants — January, February, March — and if we don’t have indoor dining it’s going to be a real challenge for every restaurant out there,” The Grocer’s Table’s Lindsay Pohland said.

Kate Raddatz