Bars, restaurants allowed to resume outdoor service, ban on indoor dining remains

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is extending his ban on indoor dining at bars and restaurants into January, but will allow outdoor dining to resume at a limited capacity starting Saturday. 

Walz issued a new executive order Wednesday, loosening some of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions following the four-week dial back period that started in mid-November. 

Under the new order, bars, restaurants, breweries and other establishments may reopen for outdoor service at 50% capacity, or up to 100 people maximum. No more than four people will be allowed at a table and tales must be 6 feet apart.

Bars and restaurants can allow dining in outdoor tents as long as two walls are removed. 

There will be a 10 p.m. curfew for bars and and restaurants offering outdoor dining. 

Walz said allowing outdoor dining at 50% in the middle of winter was a request from breweries, many of which have put significant work into making outdoor service possible. 

"There's no illusion. Outdoor dining isn't the fix to this," Walz said.

Hospitality trade group Hospitality Minnesota said it was "gravely disappointed" in the governor’s decision. The group was pushing as recently as Tuesday to allow indoor dining rooms to open at 50 percent capacity.

The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, which represents bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, said Walz's new executive order is "shameful and unjust." Allowing limited outdoor dining is "paltry," the group said.