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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

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