Increased COVID-19 compliance checks at Minnesota restaurants and bars start Friday

Starting Friday, Minnesota public safety and health officials will complete increased COVID-19 compliance checks at bars and restaurants, according to the Department of Labor and Industry.

According to a message sent by state officials to hospitality industry representatives, the checks come in response to concerns that some establishments have been serving greater than 50 percent capacity with tables less than six feet apart and have not been following the indoor face mask mandate.

In addition to those violations, investigators will also be checking for employee health screening protocols, party size limits, reservation protocols and more. Violations could lead to fines or loss of liquor license.

"We want all students to be able to attend school in person and our businesses and institutions to remain open," read the message. "But, establishments that allow large groups of people to gather in unsafe numbers and disregard safety precautions, such as not practicing social distancing or requiring masks, pose a risk to those goals."

DLI is working with the Minnesota Department of Health and the Department of Public Safety on the investigations. Potential safety or health hazards to employees will be referred to Minnesota OSHA, which will conduct a workplace investigation and could lead to citations, penalties or temporary closure orders.

Minnesota House Republicans argue this stance is different from previous efforts to educate businesses and fear possible fines could further hurt businesses impacted by the pandemic.