Originally published Jan. 12, 2022

MINNEAPOLS (WCCO) — The mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul announced Wednesday that people entering establishments serving food or beverages will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours to enter. The rule will also apply to anyone going to see the Timberwolves at Target Center or the Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

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The policies for both cities will go into effect on Jan. 19, and they’ll extend to cover ticketed events on Jan. 26.

These policies are the latest efforts by Twin Cities leaders to curb the spread of the highly-contagious Omicron variant. Last week, both cities reinstated mask mandates.

Earlier Wednesday, state health officials reported that Minnesota’s average positivity rate was at 19.8% — new record high. The surge in new cases is causing disruptions across virtually all industries, from education and child care to restaurants and hospitals.

“The surge in COVID cases across our city is causing pile-ups at testing sites and is overwhelming our hospitals and out health care workers,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said Wednesday. “The data is exceedingly clear that more is needed to keep our cities safe.”

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At a news conference, Frey said that his city’s new policy will cover all places where people can eat and drink, including stadiums and movie theaters. The policy doesn’t include schools, hospitals, nursing homes, grocery stores or public places, such as the Minneapolis Skyway.

Mayor Melvin Carter of St. Paul said that the policy there will apply to all businesses licensed by the city.

In both cities, the policy will apply to anyone who can be vaccinated, meaning anyone 5 and older. Initially, Minneapolis was going to require proof of a negative test for children between the ages of 2 and 5. The city dropped that stipulation Thursday.

As for the testing requirement, only PCR or antigen tests will count, not rapid home tests.

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Both mayors say their policies will be temporary. According to Frey, it’ll be in place in Minneapolis until the Omicron surge peaks.

Officials say that businesses will be liable for penalties and citations if patrons do not comply. However, administrators said they would work with businesses as much as possible to avoid citations.

Leaders in both cities said they reached out to restaurants about the restrictions before Wednesday’s announcement.

Yoom Nguyen of Lotus Restaurant in Minneapolis believes the new policies will do the exact opposite of what city leaders expect.

“Seriously, we are going through enough stuff already,” Nguyen said. “This is another thing that we cannot handle.”

Nguyen says the new policies add more worry to restaurant owners because unlike bars they do not have someone at the door to handle checking vaccination cards.

“There is no way I’m going to hire someone to stand here at the door and to check IDs,” he said. “What do we do when people are picking up food for to go orders, delivery drivers, there are a whole bunch of things that come along with this that doesn’t make sense to us.”

The group Hospitality Minnesota said that these requirements will put another burden on already struggling businesses.

“Once again, the burden is being placed on businesses to enforce this additional mandate, putting them at a further competitive disadvantage and in a difficult position with the public and their frontline workers,” the group said, in a statement. “As this goes into effect, it is crucial that both mayors are absolutely clear about the metrics that will drive the lifting of these mandates to help these businesses get on the other side of this latest surge.”

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A number of other large cities with Democratic leadership have implemented similar policies, from Seattle to New York City. The various policies cover slightly different businesses, but they generally require that patrons show proof of vaccination or a negative test in order to eat indoors, see a concert or workout in a gym.