‘Going backwards is really not an option’: Industry leaders raise concern over COVID-19 flare-ups at bars

Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health, Jan Malcolm, said Monday around 200 cases of the coronavirus have been linked back to bars in Mankato while 100 cases have been linked to bars in the Twin Cities. 

Several bars linked to the outbreaks voluntarily shut down voluntarily. Malcolm says that while it’s up to local law enforcement to enforce restrictions at restaurants, the state could step in and tighten restrictions if flare-ups continue to happen. 

“We’ve been having conversations about how to make sure that enforcement and guidance is taken seriously. We’re talking about making it more clear to establishment owners what the consequences of failure to comply,” Commissioner Malcolm said. 

Under Minnesota guidelines, people can’t stand by, or hang out around a bar. They must be seated at a table of six people or less or sitting at a bar top, separated by six feet from another group. 

Hospitality industry leaders say they need for the public to help abide by and enforce these rules while they’re out to help the restaurant industry stay open as is and potentially fully open. 

“I think the hospitality industry is really looking for this partnership with the customers and the public to understand that they play a really important role in all of this too,” CEO of Hospitality Minnesota, Liz Rammer said. 

Rammer says she doesn’t want to see restaurant rollbacks happen here in Minnesota like has been happening in some other states like Florida where there are also COVID-19 cases linked to bars. 

“It’s something we all need to be mindful of so we can not only stay open but we can open more fully,” Rammer said. 

The General Manager of Manitou Grill and Event Center in White Bear Lake, Ross Carter, says customers have been receptive to the changes they’ve had to make to follow guidelines. 

“They come in and they’ve got their mask on or they put their mask on as they’re coming in the door,” Carter said. 

He says he is concerned that cases tracing back to bars and restaurants could lead to more restrictions or customers fearing visiting restaurants and contracting the virus. 

“To go back would be really, really, really sad. So we’re trying to keep all or staff healthy and follow all the rules and protocols that are mandate,” Carter said.