Reports: Walz to allow limited capacity inside bars, restaurants; more changes

Walz will formalize guidance at a 2 p.m. press conference.
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Tim Walz

Gov. Tim Walz is expected to announce a series of changes to COVID-19 restrictions on bars, restaurants, and entertainment businesses in his 2 p.m. briefing Wednesday. 

With the governor briefing legislative and business leaders Wednesday morning, details have started to emerge about what Walz will announce ahead of the current ban on dine-in service coming to an end at 11:59 p.m. Jan. 10.

Based on reports from Twin Cities media, here's some of what he's expected to announce:

  • 50% capacity for indoor dining at bars and restaurants with a 10 p.m. closing time, according to Blois Olson's Morning Take. 
  • Olson says restaurants can't exceed 150 customers.
  • Other bar/restaurant rules: 6 people max per table, 6-foot distancing, bar seating for 2 people together at a time.
  • Bowling alleys and movie theaters allowed to reopen at 25% capacity, according to KSTP's Tom Hauser. 
  • Spectators allowed at sports events at 25% of capacity, up to 250 outdoors, 150 outdoors, per Olson.
  • Rules expected to go into effect from Monday.

The state had loosened restrictions following a downturn in cases over the summer, allowing restaurants to open for indoor dining at 50% capacity to a maximum of 250 people. In October, it also increased the maximum number of people allowed at a single table to 10.

But the spike in cases that followed in October and November – bringing the state's COVID-19 outbreak to record levels – prompted Walz to dial back the state's loosening of restrictions.

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On Nov. 10 he imposed a 10 p.m. curfew on bars and restaurants, a cap of 150 people allowed for indoor dining, and an end to bar counter service. He also announced a limit of 50 people – later reducing to 25 people – at weddings and funerals, and a limit on social gatherings to 10 people. 

But stiffer restrictions followed in the form of his "pause" that went into effect in Nov. 18 as the surge continued, with bars and restaurants having to close for indoor service, and youth sports temporarily shut down along with gyms and entertainment venues.

Since then, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have declined significantly from the peak on Nov. 30, prompting Walz to loosen restrictions once again.

Gyms were allowed to reopen with limited capacity on Dec. 20 and outdoor dining was allowed to resume the same day, while youth sports practices resumed Jan. 4.

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