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Outdoor dining allowed in MN starting June 1

Restaurants will be allowed to seat up to 50 people outdoors, with certain restrictions in place.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — Governor Tim Walz announced Wednesday that limited outdoor dining will be allowed at restaurants and bars starting June 1.

Social distancing will be enforced between tables and reservations will be required. Masks will also be required for workers but optional for customers. The restaurants will need to restrict their capacity to 50 customers; groups will be limited to four people or six if all the customers are family. 

"I certainly think it's a step forward, if anything. I don't disagree," said Shawn Nafstad, co-owner of Apoy. The Filipino restaurant opened in the Kingfield neighborhood of south Minneapolis in 2018. 

Nafstad went on to say, "I think a lot of people are going to be reluctant to even really gather once things open up in the first place so I think outdoor is a good baby step to getting people feeling okay with gathering again."

Apoy has three patio tables that can seat up to 12 people total. Nafstad said they'll also consider other options for maximizing their space but said safety is a top priority.  

"You have to take this seriously, there's really no other way," Nafstad said. 

Across the street, The Lowbrow is also most concerned about safety. Owner Heather Bray said she's not sure if they'll choose to offer outdoor dining on June 1. 

"We originally thought that he [Governor Walz] would say that we could reopen at 50% capacity on June 1 and we had decided that we would not open at that capacity on June 1 in order to give us time to see what the best practices are to keep our staff safe," Bray said. "I think we will continue that measured approach, see what the best practices are, make sure that we know exactly how we can do it to make sure that the people that we're responsible for are safe as possible." 

The Lowbrow does have a sidewalk cafe license and can seat about 20 people outside but with social distancing, Bray said it would end up being about 12. 

Bray said they also need to make sure it's not a money-losing proposition. 

"In the meantime, our customers have been tipping incredibly generously, sending cards. One of our customers started a GoFundMe campaign for our staff that raised over $11,000 dollars," Bray said. "So we feel the love from our community... I'm super grateful to live in this state with a governor like Governor Walz that's making sure that the safety of our community is paramount."

But Hospitality Minnesota called the governor's announcement "surprising and disappointing." 

"While it's good for those restaurants that are able to offer outdoor seating, it will leave many behind around our state who cannot host patrons in an outdoor patio setting. Many of our operators have begun to hire back their staff to use their PPP loan money and ordering products for reopening on June 1, so this is another disastrous setback for them," said Ann Kirby McGill with Hospitality Minnesota. 

During the press conference, state leaders talked about how cities will need to get creative and look at temporary solutions such as allowing sidewalk cafes and parklets. 

There's no timeline for the next step (Phase 3) but that will include indoor dining with capacity restrictions and social distancing requirements. 

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The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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