Reports: Gov. 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.

While the ban on indoor dining is expected to be extended into January, Gov. Tim Walz is expected to open up bars and restaurants for outdoor service starting as soon as Saturday.

Reports are emerging that in his 1:15 p.m. announcement, Minnesota restaurants will be allowed to offer outdoor seating at 50% capacity, with a maximum of 100 people dining at once.

What's more, table sizes will be limited to four people, with all diners having to be seated.

However, the ban on dine-in service – where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is greater – is expected to be extended through the holidays and beyond, at least until Jan. 10.

Furthermore, Walz is expected to loosen the guidance on social gatherings over the Christmas period to a maximum of 15 people from three households. The guidance for Thanksgiving was for people to celebrate with their own households.

It comes after Minnesota and other Midwestern states have experienced a drop in COVID cases and hospitalizations since the record peaks seen in November, which put the state's hospital system under huge strain.

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 could hit as high as the mid-40s in the Twin Cities on Sunday and Monday.

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What's more, before the November shutdown restaurants were finding ways of keeping customers comfortable while dining outdoors, erecting tents and using patio heaters to expand their patio dining space.

Rules were loosened earlier in the year to make it easier for restaurants and bars to offer patio seating on public rights of way.

Other changes expected to be announced during his 1:15 p.m. press conference include allowing gyms to reopen at limited capacity, a return to in-person learning for elementary schools, and changes to social gathering guidance. You can read more on this here.

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