Duluth Restaurant Owners Brace Themselves as Gov. Walz Announces Statewide Closure

Closure affects only dine-in customers, takeout and delivery services continue.

DULUTH, Minn.- Governor Tim Walz has ordered bars and restaurants across Minnesota to temporarily close to customers who dine in, as the number of Coronavirus cases in the state reaches 54–a dramatic jump in just a few days.

This follows an increasing number of states across the country closing their bars and restaurants. The San Francisco Bay Area has gone a step further, issuing a shelter-in-place order.

The closure also applies to other places of public entertainment, including theaters, museums, fitness centers and community clubs.

Affected businesses must close by 5 p.m. Tuesday, St.Patrick’s Day, through March 27th. Delivery and curbside takeout services can continue.

To cushion the blow, the Governor is making it easier for the thousands of workers facing layoffs to get unemployment insurance.

“I ask Minnesotans to bear with us but to understand that we’re not coming in front of you making a closure without having the backstops in place top try and ease this,” Walz said.

“I think most of us would recognize in this room that this is the new normal”

Wisconsin restaurants and bars remain open at this point.

And as the Governor announced the closure of these businesses across the state, bars and restaurants here in the Twin Ports prepare to deal with having no business and little-to-no income for the next 10 days.

“It’ll be a huge hit. People’s perception of restaurants tht they are swimming in money, and that’s just not true,” said Rick Lampton.

Lampton, owner of the 310 Pub and 7-West Taphouse in Duluth, oversees the construction of his newest business: Blue Rock Coffee and Wine Cafe by the Miller Hill Mall.

Though this recent announcement is sure to delay the planned April 1st opening and have even more effects on his other businesses and many employees.

“We’re pretty scared what the staff will do,” he said. “If it’s two weeks we can make do and figure it out but if it gets longer than that we have some issues.”

President of the Duluth Local Restaurant Association Tony Bronson, said it puts a huge burden on the restaurant industry.

“Obviously difficult from a business standpoint but we’re trying to be responsible to kind of three differnet groups here,” Bronson said.

“We’re trying to be responsible to the general public, we’re trying to be responsible to our guests who are coming in and want to have a nice meal, and we’re trying to be responsible to our staff who kind of need to be working also.”

There is some hope for workers as Walz introduced a second Executive Order allowing bar and restaurant employees to apply for immediate assistance from Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance Program.

“It suspends the current rules of the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Progream to offer immediate support to those who are effected by the temporary closure,” Minnesota Deed Commissioner Steve Grove said.

“You may be eligible for UI. You probably are eligible for UI, and you should go to UIMN.org and apply.”

Still, according to celebrity chef and Minnesota native Andrew Zimmern, these businesses will need more help to deal with this closure.

“My heart breaks as I read letter after leftter from Chefs and Restauranteurs across our state and country expressing the same ideas,” he said. “We do need you to help, we need government bailouts of our industry.”

Throughout the closure business owners in Minnesota said there are still ways to help keep them afloat.

“Takeout is till a good thing for us or coming in and buying a gift card too, maybe after the quarantining and the virus scare goes away,” Bronson said.

“The more we do takeout, the more hours I can give to the staff.”

Yet, the inevitable truth is that there are many businesses across the state who won’t be able to recover from this.

“We need to make sure that wen this pandemic is finally over and it will be over, that we hace some restaurantsq that can re-open,” said Zimmern.

“The harsh reality is that most won’t.”

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