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Minnesota changes COVID-19 restrictions on bar, restaurant dining

Capacity limits will still be in place, but table sizes can grow.

The Walz Administration has revealed new guidance for bars and restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic, still keeping total capacity limited but allowing larger parties to dine at restaurants.

Since June 10, restaurants and bars are only allowed to seat tables of four people – or six if they're from the same household, while their total capacity has been kept at 50% of their occupancy limits.

Under new guidance that goes into effect immediately, dining rooms will now be able to seat parties of up to 10 people – irrespective of whether they're from the same household.

However, tables in bar areas – where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is believed to be higher – will be limited to a maximum of four people.

Reservations will still be required at all establishments, patrons will not be allowed to dance, and all patrons will be required to be seated.

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The state's facemask mandate meanwhile states that masks must still be worn until sitting down at a table, and even then are encouraged to be kept on except when eating or drinking.

Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove said the changes to the restrictions have come in response to conversations the state has had with the hospitality industry.

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Grove says that the change to groups of 10 people or fewer – with at least 6 feet of space between tables still required – will give venues "flexibility to optimize space," with a view to providing more revenue opportunities as the challenging winter period approaches.

COVID-19 rates have stayed relatively stable in Minnesota in recent months, unlike the soaring cases seen in the likes of Wisconsin and South Dakota, which have had fewer COVID-19 restrictions in place.

Minnesota's positivity rate has been hovering around the 5% level for months, whereas Wisconsin, South Dakota and Iowa are now seeing weekly rates in excess of 15%.

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