Restaurants have hope for future as COVID-19 restrictions ease in Minnesota

As cases continue to fall, Minnesota eased some restrictions for restaurants, bars, and other venues. (FOX 9)

Starting Saturday, some COVID-19 restrictions were eased at restaurants, bars, indoor entertainment venues, private events, and gyms in Minnesota.

With the extreme cold weather Minnesota is experiencing, there was no better time than Saturday to find a nice warm spot for a meal.

"It feels more normal," said Allie Young, who stopped by the Gnome in St. Paul.

While 50 percent capacity remains at restaurants and bars, the governor’s new executive order eases the "not to exceed capacity" number to 250 and allows them to stay open until 11 p.m. while private parties are now capped at 50 people. But, at the Gnome, not too much will change.

"Our capacity is unfortunately not all the way up to 50 percent, not up to 250 people, so that is really not going to affect us either," said Gnome General Manager Sean Corrigan. "But we are excited to do more events with a larger, grooms dinners and events like that up to 50 people... that’s certainly a big step in the right direction for us."

Even so, those in the restaurant business are hoping this sets the path for more rules to be loosened.

"75 percent would be great, right now, especially with our patio out there," said Corrigan. "We’re really looking forward to our patio season and that will make a huge difference for us."

For other restaurants, like Tom Reid’s in St. Paul, the extended restaurant hours will be a game changer.

"Nightside, we turn into a bar scene and we get a lot of business past 10 o’clock so that’s quite a bit of revenue we have lost," said Tom Reid's General Manager Kathy Gosiger.

Tom Reid's near the Xcel Energy Center has felt a double hit. No crowds at hockey games or concerts mean fewer customers coming through the doors for them. So they’ll take any loosening of restrictions they can get.

"The X is huge," said Gosiger. "Cannot even come close to recovering the loss that we’ve had with the Wild not playing live games and the concerts. That’s what keeps a lot of us going along this street."

But, there is hope in a vaccine, and falling COVID-19 case numbers and that a downward trend can mean an uptick in business.

"We’re just hoping to eventually get back to a new norm," said Gosiger.