Restaurants re-think Thanksgiving plans as Minnesota announces new COVID-19 restrictions

Governor Tim Walz is turning back the dial to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Starting Friday night, new restrictions will impact social gatherings, bars, restaurants, gyms and youth sports. The new restrictions on restaurants come at a difficult time, with the onset of winter, outdoor dining is not practical anymore and restaurants that were already booked for Thanksgiving now have to change plans.

At the Bay Street Burger Dive in St. Paul on Wednesday, owner Josh Thoma is moving quickly ahead with a shutdown plan and a new menu for Thanksgiving.

"We're transitioning, we’re going to kind of pivot and we’re going to do 'Meatsgiving,'" said Thoma. "So we’re doing our meatloaf kits to go here."

It’s a part of a new COVID world order during the important holiday season.

"For a lot of restaurants, Thanksgiving is one of the biggest days of the year," said Thoma. "Especially at formal sit down establishments like The Lexington."

Thanksgiving reservations were already full at The Lexington, which is also owned by Thoma.

"So now that we’re going to be shut down, we’ve kind of transferred those meals that we were going sell inside and you’ll be able to buy them online again," he said.

At the Smack Shack, the business will quickly transition to live cook-from-home events just like it did during the last shutdown. But many restaurants are not small and nimble enough to change their delivery models.

The head of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association says: "It will most certainly mean significantly increased unemployment and further permanent loss of our bars and restaurants across Minnesota.”

Even at the Burger Dive, they hope it only lasts a month. "At least there is some end in sight and hopefully it won’t be extended, further," said Thoma. "But, we’re trying to keep our guests and employees safe and that’s what we have to do right now as a business."

Even Thoma says there are a lot of restaurants going into winter with no outdoor dining that may not be able to reopen.