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Stillwater gets approval to block off Main Street parking for dining

It comes after the latest COVID-19 guidance for bars and restaurants.

The City of Stillwater has received permission to temporarily block off parking on Main Street to allow for use by restaurants and bars.

Mayo Ted Kozlowski has announced a series of measures this week designed to encourage people to dine at downtown eateries, which includes a loosening of the city's open container rules to allow people who get takeout beer or wine to drink it in Lowell Park.

And on Friday the city received permission from the Minnesota Department of Transportation to block off parking on both sides of Main Street so it can be used for expanded patio dining.

He told the Pioneer Press it was a "huge" boost for the city, noting that the extra space can also be used by non-food businesses who want to operate outside.

The new rules for expanded patio dining come into effect on June 1, with Gov. Tim Walz loosening the rules provided restaurant and bars serve a maximum of 50 diners at a time.

In announcing the rules, Minnesota has asked cities and municipalities to get creative in providing more options for outdoor dining, including by opening up sidewalks, bike lanes and parking for diners.

But the decision has sparked criticism from a growing number in the restaurant industry, who had been hoping that dine-in service could reopen with capacity restrictions in place.

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Mayor Kozlowski notes that his city is looking at many other options for improving the situation for local businesses over the coming weeks.

"We’re looking at partial street closures where we can without disrupting deliveries, I’m looking at parking lot closures with large tents for outdoor dining that our restaurants can possibly share and a few other options prior to our emergency council meeting next week," he said.

"We are working pretty much around the clock to explore every option and nothing is off the table at this point."

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