Originally published Dec. 30, 2021

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Several restaurants in the Twin Cities are closing over the New Year’s Eve weekend and into early January because of staff testing positive for COVID-19. Others are taking the step simply out of caution as the highly infectious Omicron variant circulates the state.

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Among those shut down through next week is Estelle in St. Paul, which made the call after a few members of the team fell ill with the virus. It will resume business January 10, and is doing a sold-out take-out option Friday for New Year’s with just a three people making it happen.

Co-owner Peter Sebastian said the decision was “agonizing,” but one that made the most logical and logistical sense. Guests who booked for this week and next were notified of the cancellations.

“It just doesn’t work well in any way to do that,” Sebastian said of trying to make limited reservations work and accommodate the staffing situation. “It became really obvious that really the only option we could we could do was to shut down give everybody the full couple weeks to just isolate, get healthy and get better.”

Other restaurants are making similar choices to close for the next few days over the holiday and—in some cases—into next week, including Bar La Grassa, Young Joni, Owamni, St. Paul Grill and sister restaurants Martina and Rosalia.

First Avenue canceled its New Year’s Eve celebration and several bands have postponed or canceled their shows at the venue into January.

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“We’ve already started discussing what kind policies we can put in place moving forward to keep us from being in this situation again if that’s possible and I don’t know if that it is,” said Sebastian.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported more than 6,700 new cases on Thursday.

The rising COVID cases come as the world nears two years fighting this pandemic, which has upended daily life. The hospitality industry suffered during shutdowns and still struggles to rebound.

A survey of hotels and food service operators by Hospitality Minnesota found that after a strong summer economic performance, the industry has stalled.

Inflation, workforce shortages and the pandemic together are all impacting business in the sector; 59% of restaurants have taken on debt due to COVID and 87% of those surveyed said labor availability is “tight,” the report showed.

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Caroline Cummings