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Minnesota to step up COVID-19 safety compliance checks at bars and restaurants

The enforcement effort beginning Aug. 28 comes after compliant businesses raised concerns about competitors who are not following the state's guidelines.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

ST PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) are planning to conduct extra compliance checks for COVID-19 safety measures at bars and restaurants in the coming weeks.

The extra enforcement efforts will begin Friday, Aug. 28, according to a letter sent to hospitality industry businesses this week, signed by the commissioners of the three departments.

The letter said the state is conducting the extra enforcement after compliant businesses raised concerns about competing establishments that are not following the guidelines.

"Most establishments are following federal and state guidelines, but it makes it difficult for them to compete or to explain to their customers when other establishments are not in compliance," the letter reads. "We owe it to the establishments that are following the guidelines to address these issues of noncompliance. We all need to do our part to help slow or reduce the spread of COVID-19, which will allow businesses to remain open and set our schools up for success."

According to the letter, teams from the three departments will visit "multiple establishments each weekend," checking for compliance on guidelines set by executive order, including:

  • Masks worn by staff and customers
  • Signs communicating the requirement
  • Social distancing
  • Tables at least six feet apart
  • Table party size limits
  • 50% indoor capacity limits
  • Employee screening protocols

The letter warns that bars and restaurants that are found to be in non-compliance could face fines, loss of liquor license, or an order for the establishment to close.

Results of compliance checks will be sent to the establishments and made public the week after the compliance visit.

In a statement Friday, Hospitality Minnesota said most bars and restaurants are following the guidance, and expressed concern that the industry was being unfairly singled out.

"Enforcement efforts must be carried out fairly and evenly, and across all types of businesses that serve the public. Given that restaurants and bars represent only 2% of the cases MDH has identified this summer, we are concerned that this industry is being disproportionately and unfairly targeted and we have expressed these concerns to the health department," the statement read.

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