MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For the first time in nearly two months, restaurants and bars across Minnesota were open for indoor dining. They are now open at 50% capacity, with a max of 150 people inside at one time.
Movie theaters and swimming pools were also among the businesses that could re-open to customers Monday, and the changes have come at a crucial time for many operations.
As of late, Yum! Kitchen and Bakery in St. Louis Park has been grab-and-go only, but owner Patti Soskin says that was never the plan.
“We’re in the hospitality business. Our dream is to have people in the restaurant,” Soskin said. “So we want to be safe, we want to be careful, but we are operating at 50%.”
As of Monday morning, that dream was once again reality as customers began showing up and sitting down to eat. Sorkin says it’s critical to support small businesses, and she is deeply grateful for loyal customers.
Sarah-Jo Sannerud is one of those loyal customers. She dined-in for lunch Monday.
“I’m so excited,” Sannerud said. “I feel like we’re back, not back to normal, but I can breathe again. I need to be able to eat at restaurants, I’m sick of being cooped up.”
Maria’s Café in south Minneapolis was also greeted with enthusiastic regulars. Owner Maria Hoyos said customers didn’t waste time Monday morning.
“You can see today they right away start coming,” Hoyos said.
It was the happiest of happy hours at Granite City in Maple Grove. Will Galloway was on hand for a long-awaited indoor-dining experience.
“It feels a lot more human, as they say. The human side of it is definitely the best part,” Galloway said.
In-person dinner and drinks replaced Zoom and FaceTime meet ups. From morning through the afternoon, customers booked dozens of indoor reservations, while outdoor seating still remained an option. Pete Von Bank is general manager at Granite City.
“We’re doing our best to stay compliant and be safe,” Von Bank said.
Granite City was forced to furlough about 70 employees during this past shut down. But fortunately, more than 60 of them returned to work on Monday, including Whitney Grinager.
“My hours were cut in half because I was only working part time,” Grinager said. “It’s exciting. Everybody that I’ve talked to on the phone is excited to come in, and I’m excited to see them come in.”
At the Sunshine Factory in Plymouth, it’s also a numbers game. Fifty-percent capacity is a good start, but 100% is the goal, according to employee Kirstein O’Mara.
“We’re feeling really safe. We’ve gone above and beyond to make sure that it’s safe for our customers,” O’Mara said.
Shannon Cardwell is a Sunshine Factory regular, and is happy to see the restaurant survived the latest restrictions.
“I think I’m just so excited to be out and not stuck at home again that I don’t know how to feel,” Cardwell said.
She believes it’s a step towards better mental health for those who felt stuck at home.
“It feels amazing. I’m a social person, so for me this is what I need,” Cardwell said.
People also started hitting the water in Nisswa after pool and hot tub restrictions were lifted. Mark Ronnei is the managing director at Grand View Lodge.
“Our pools opened at 9 a.m. this morning. At 9:03 we had our first family in the pool,” Ronnei said.
Because Grand View is a family resort, and amenities are key, they’ve lost nearly $1 million in business since the November shutdown. But now they are open again.
“It was a huge relief. We were just on the edge of having to lay off a bunch of employees,” Ronnei said.
Bookings are already way up, and more reservations in the hospitality business means fewer worries. Ronnei says he is ready for a full resort.
“We are so ready!” he said.
Ronnei says reservations are already up so much that instead of laying off staff, they now need to hire more staff.
Movie theaters were also allowed to re-open at 25% capacity Monday. But many of the theaters WCCO spoke with said they will wait until later this week, or even later this month, to re-open on a weekend, when there is more business.
More On WCCO.com: