Publish date:

What constitutes outdoor dining under Minnesota's new guidance?

Igloos and any fully enclosed structures don't count.

Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday announced the ban on indoor dining at bars and restaurants would continue, but outdoor dining is allowed starting Dec. 18. 

The governor acknowledged that allowing establishments to reopen their patios is not a solution for the industry, with most struggling stay afloat amid months of COVID-related restrictions. 

It is a "recognition that some establishments – particularly breweries – have put significant work into making outdoor service possible and this may prove helpful to some," a news release from Walz's office said.

Before the November shutdown, restaurants and breweries were finding ways to keep customers comfortable while dining outdoors as temperatures dropped, including erecting tents and igloos and setting up patio heaters and fire pits in hopes of extending the patio season to attract customers who were more comfortable dining outdoors.

Some of the innovative ways restaurants were coming up with to serve customers outside resembled buildings themselves, with four walls and a roof, but "outdoor" spaces like that are prohibited in the governor's new executive order. 

The state's Stay Safe MN plan says any outdoor shelter that's used for in-person dining can't be fully enclosed, so those igloos that many restaurants invested in ahead of winter aren't allowed through Jan. 10. 

Here are the examples the state uses to explain what is considered indoor: 

Meanwhile, the state's order limits the number of customers in outdoor dining spaces to 50% of the capacity of the outdoor space, up to a maximum of 100 people. 

No more than four customers may be seated together at one time and all customers must be seated – there's no seating at bars or counters allowed – a physical distance of six feet must be maintained between customers in different dining parties, according to state guidelines.  

It remains to be seen how much assistance allowing outdoor service will be to bars and restaurants in the winter, though this has been a significantly milder December than usual.

Looking ahead to next week's forecast, temperatures are forecast to be in the 40s on Sunday and Monday in the Twin Cities, while northern Minnesota is expected to see temperatures in the upper 30s to start the week.

The mild forecast hasn't stopped the flood of dining outdoors in Minnesota in December jokes and memes. Here are some of them:

"I know we're in Minnesota. And I know it's the middle of December. I know this doesn't make folks whole. But like so many of these things we're trying to move as much as we can to mitigate the risk, to provide some of that economic activity," Walz said, according to MPR News' Brian Bakst.

Walz noted that breweries and brewpubs requested to be allowed to serve customers outside, acknowledging that many establishments may not open their patios.

"I live in Minnesota too ... it's cold outside. People don't want to eat outside a lot of time," Walz added.

Hey, at least your beer will stay cold?

The latest forecast from Novak Weather

Next Up

Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins makes $500,000 donation to Vikings' social justice committee

The committee works on issues such as criminal justice reform, education and voter registration.

Meghan Roth Go Fund Me

Accomplished MN runner goes into cardiac arrest during Boston Marathon

Other racers jumped in to give the 34-year-old mother CPR, saving her life.

Flickr - Winston Smith memorial uptown June 4 - Chad Davis

Review reveals body cam video from aftermath of Winston Smith shooting

While no video of shooting exists, an officer captured some video immediately afterward.

classroom mask

Parents object to Minneapolis Schools' 14-day COVID exposure quarantines

Other Twin Cities school districts do not have quarantine protocols quite as strict as in Minneapolis.

Pixabay - police lights, tape

Good Samaritan has car stolen while tending to man stabbed in neck

The thief then ran into the good Samaritan while driving off.

Screen Shot 2021-10-13 at 3.17.46 PM

Minnesota family learns their baby has extremely rare, fatal disease

The baby's mother is hoping to provide her son with the best life possible.

unsplash - water close-up

Sheriff: Human jaw bone found near Staples is 'ancient,' not recent

It was one of four bones found by a group of people over the summer.

Fargo sex offender grinder - north dakota site

Police: Armed sex offender wanders into 2 Fargo homes

Nobody was injured and the man was eventually located via a GPS ankle monitor.

Xcel Energy Center

Wild season opener Friday night isn't on regular TV

Friday's game is one of five games that will be streamed this season.

polar bear como zoo

Young polar bear joining the celebration at Como Zoo

The bear is part of a new Burr on Fur program that will help wild polar bears.


Jim Gaffigan, Jeff Foxworthy recording MN shows for Netflix

The streaming giant will film their upcoming performances for future stand-up specials.

Giant Beaver fossil

Minnesotans vote for giant beaver to become official state fossil

The Science Museum held a vote, which the extinct, 200-pound beaver won.



Bars, restaurants allowed to reopen for indoor dining Monday

Party sizes will be limited and reservations are required.

56 Brewing

For outdoor dining, MN brewery's beer gets cheaper as it gets colder

It's "a reward for being a tough Minnesotan," the brewery says.

ninetwentyfive igloos wayzata

Wayzata restaurant adds igloos to extend the outdoor dining season

Restaurants across the state are looking to keep serving customers outside during the pandemic.

al's breakfast

Minneapolis joint named to Esquire's list of restaurants we can't lose

Al's has been fundraising to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

restaurant patio

Walz to reopen outdoor seating at restaurants, allow larger holiday gatherings

Some venues have been making outdoor seating work using patio heaters in recent months.


West St. Paul restaurant offers a discount for anyone who dines in

Restaurants were allowed to open for indoor service on June 10.

Saint Dinette

Saint Dinette halts takeout until 'path is more clear'

The popular St. Paul restaurant says it'll be "back better than ever."