Walz eases restrictions on indoor dining, entertainment venues

Gov. Tim Walz is ending his ban on indoor dining, will allow indoor entertainment venues to reopen starting Monday and is letting some spectators attend sporting events as coronavirus infection rates improve in Minnesota.

Walz is rolling back the restrictions to levels from early November, before he shut down thousands of businesses across the state to deal with a virus surge that month. Those current closure orders will end Sunday night.

"Your sacrifices have changed this trajectory," Walz said during a televised speech Wednesday afternoon. "We’ve asked much of you, Minnesota, and you’ve risen to the occasion."

Walz's changes were overshadowed by rioters breaking into the U.S. Capitol during the vote to certify President-elect Joe Biden's win, incited by President Donald Trump's baseless claims of widespread election fraud. Walz canceled an in-person news conference about his loosened COVID restrictions because of security concerns around the Minnesota Capitol, where a few hundred Trump supporters gathered without incident.

Indoor dining resumes at bars and restaurants 

Walz's new order allows indoor dining at 50 percent capacity starting Monday, with no more than 150 people in an establishment.

Six people can be seated at each table, with 6 feet of distance between tables. Bar seating will be allowed, with no more than two people per party.
Reservations are required, and a curfew will be in effect from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Hospitality Minnesota and the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, which represent the bar and restaurant industry, said the changes were positive news after several weeks of much tougher restrictions.

Indoor entertainment venues to reopen in limited capacity

Walz is also allowing hundreds of indoor entertainment venues to reopen Monday at 25% capacity in each area of the venue. That includes movie theaters, museums performance venues and bowling alleys.

Wedding receptions and private parties can restart under a capacity cap for each venue.

Spectators allowed at sporting events

Spectators will again be allowed at sporting events, though attendance will be capped. For outdoor events, 250 people will be allowed. For indoor events, the venue's capacity limit will dictate attendance.

Restrictions loosen for pools, gyms

Pools can reopen at 25% capacity. Gyms must stay at 25% capacity, though the overall maximum is raised to 150 people. Group classes can have 25 people starting Monday, though they must stay 9 feet apart.

No overall maximum capacity for places of worship

Walz is ending his limit on the number of people allowed on places of worship, though they must remain under 50% capacity.

Infections, hospitalizations and deaths surged in November across the upper Midwest, including Minnesota. The state's hospitals hit a peak of 1,864 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Nov. 29. As of Tuesday, 817 people were hospitalized with the virus.

Walz said the vaccination process was a "gamechanger" that would quickly improve the worst effects of the pandemic -- deaths among more vulnerable nursing home residents and staffing shortages because of health care worker infections. Nursing home residents and health care workers are the first to receive the vaccine.

More than 97,000 Minnesotans have been vaccinated, just 34 percent of the 288,000 vaccines that Minnesota has received. Other states are facing similar issues.

On vaccines, Walz said, "If you’re thinking this is too slow, I’m right with you."