Amid Chaos at the U.S. Capitol, Walz Lifts Some Business Restrictions
Gov. Walz visiting a Bemidji water plant in late October. Gov. Tim Walz on Facebook

Amid Chaos at the U.S. Capitol, Walz Lifts Some Business Restrictions

In a brisk press conference on Wednesday, the governor said restaurants and bars can resume limited indoor dining starting Jan. 11.
Gov. Walz visiting a Bemidji water plant in late October. Gov. Tim Walz on Facebook

In a move widely telegraphed days beforehand, Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday announced plans to lift some pandemic-related restrictions on businesses.

The governor’s Wednesday afternoon press conference, held in the shadow of violent unrest at the U.S. Capitol that left at least four dead, was subdued and quickly carried out. Acknowledging that he was aware of “what’s happening in D.C.,” Walz laid out plans to allow restaurants to resume indoor dining starging Jan. 11. The conference lasted less than 20 minutes and ended without the usual question-and-answer session with reporters afterwards.

On Wednesday, pro-Trump extremists overtook the U.S. Capitol building as lawmakers met to certify results of the Electoral College vote naming Joe Biden as the next president.

“I want to acknowledge that eyes are on what’s happening in D.C., but also to acknowledge here that the Minnesota way of doing things is still stable,” Walz said at the press conference.

Moving briskly ahead, the governor said that Minnesotans’ “sacrifices have changed the trajectory” of the novel coronavirus in the state. As a result, Walz is allowing indoor dining in limited capacity beginning Jan. 11. Restaurants and bars will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity, with a max of 150 people inside.

The latest loosening of restrictions mirrors the governor’s move in June, when Walz lifted a two-month ban on indoor dining. Like the earlier changes, reservations will again be required for indoor dining — presumably to allow for better contact tracing should any patrons receive a positive Covid-19 test result.

Walz is also allowing other indoor venues to resume operations in limited capacity. Movie theaters, museums, and bowling alleys will be allowed to open their doors at 25 percent capacity, capped at 150 people.

The governor said he was loosening restrictions because Minnesota’s Covid-19 situation has been improving. He acknowledged that, at one point in December, Minnesota apparently had the “highest infection rate in the world.” But since then, numbers have improved. On Jan. 2, the state reported 1,442 confirmed cases of Covid-19, down from a spike of 7,266 confirmed cases on Nov. 30.

Meanwhile, the governor acknowledged that a more contagious version of the virus emerging in the U.K. is “probably here” in Minnesota already, though there have been no confirmed cases yet.

In a tweet, Hospitality MN, the state’s trade group for the hospitality industry, said Walz’s latest move was “great news” for “restaurants, foodservice and other hospitality-related businesses.”

“The road to recovery is going to be long and we’re very glad to get started,” the organization said on Twitter.

Mpls.St.Paul Magazine compiled a handful of responses from individual restaurants; many are eager to reopen, though some plan to stay closed for the foreseeable future.

In November, Walz shut down all dining in the state as Covid-19 cases began to tick back up in the Midwest. He called for a four-week “pause” on indoor dining, which was renewed again in December. Several restaurants in the state resumed indoor dining operations in open defiance of the governor’s order, prompting legal action from Minnesota attorney general Keith Ellison.