New order draws disappointment and gratitude for moving forward

MARSHALL — Bars and restaurants with outdoor seating areas are among the businesses affected by the next phase of a plan to reopen Minnesota. But while some local restaurants say they’ll open up their patios, the move wasn’t what they were hoping for.

“I think we were hoping to have some limited indoor seating as well,” said Tasha Munkel, manager of the Hitching Post in Marshall. “But we’re grateful to move forward.”

“We’re disappointed in this decision,” said Sarah Marczak, manager of Bello Cucina in Marshall. Marczak said Bello Cucina had been developing plans to reopen safely. But for now, Minnesota is allowing only limited outdoor seating to reopen.

On Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz said bars and restaurants can open limited outdoor seating starting June 1. Restaurants will have to maintain social distancing, and seat no more than 50 people at a time. At the same time, takeout, curbside and delivery options can continue for bars and restaurants.

Marshall restaurants with outdoor patios, including the Hitching Post, Bello Cucina and the Wooden Nickel, said Wednesday they planned to open outdoor seating areas.

“For me, I’m very neutral” about the decision to reopen outdoor dining, said Tim Clausen, manager of the Wooden Nickel. Clausen said he had been concerned that if restaurants reopened, orders of takeout food might dwindle, and dine-in business might not be able to make up for the loss. With only outdoor dining reopening, the Wooden Nickel could really focus on keeping its patio clean for customers, and at the same time continue to promote takeout service, he said.

Munkel said the Hitching Post has also set up its patio to better comply with social distancing rules. There will be a separate entrance and exit for the patio, as well as a hand sanitizing station, she said.

Marczak said Bello Cucina will likely open its patio. But restaurants say there are still questions as to whether outdoor seating will improve business. For restaurants in western Minnesota, there’s also the concern of possible competition from businesses in South Dakota that are open, Marczak said.

Munkel said the Hitching Post has only been open for curbside service since May 6. Curbside business has been picking up, she said, but it’s not the same as being completely reopened.

“We miss customers so much,” she said.

Bars and restaurants aren’t the only businesses impacted by new orders from the state. Service businesses like salons and barbershops can reopen at a limited capacity starting June 1. Churches are also allowed to have small groups of people inside.

Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, said Wednesday that the new limits for reopening don’t go far enough.

“The governor is leaving churches behind as other places start to see even slight flexibility in re-opening,” Swedzinski said. “His restriction limiting churches to 10 people inside at once is problematic. That’s really concerning to me, and it underscores the inconsistencies in the governor’s orders.

“The stipulations on capacities businesses are allowed to serve and where they may serve them are all over the board. In general, the path the governor laid out today does not do nearly enough to safely re-open our businesses that have been subject to the governor’s shutdown for months on end.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)