Duluth Bars Extra Cautious as Gov. Walz Threatens Statewide Bar Shutdown

Bar owners in Duluth say a second closure could prove disastrous.

DULUTH, Minn.- As COVID-19 cases grow nationwide, many states are already turning back to restrictions on business. Now states like Minnesota may be considering the same, as Governor Tim Walz warns that mass gatherings without masks in bars will cause numbers to rise faster.

“The bars right now are not safe,” said the Governor at a press conference last week, addressing parts of the state where some crowded bars have become hotspots for the virus. After the presser, he issued a stronger warning to bars statewide.

“He sent the Brewers Guild, Minnesota Brewer’s guild an email saying that if we don’t get this under control with following the rules, listening to mandates, then he’s going to shut us down again,” said Dave Hoops, owner of Hoops Brewing in Canal Park.

Hoops Brewing was one of the first bars to close at the start of Gov. Walz’s Executive Order, and was one of the last to open just two weeks ago.

“I don’t blame him. I understand,” the owner said of the Governor’s warning.

Hoops said most people sit outside in the Biergarten, where his employees feel more comfortable working. Anyone sitting inside is required to wear a mask.

“We’re requiring masks when people wander around or go to the bar or go to the bathroom but obviously when they sit down with their group, six or less, they can remove their masks,” he said. “And so far that’s been working out pretty well.”

And, he said, to the few that don’t comply — “we ask them to move, go on their way.”

Taking that initiative, other bar workers say, should be second nature. “I think that should be our main priority, is keep your customers safe,” Caddy Shack Bar Manager Darren Marple said.

At the Caddy Shack Indoor Golf and Pub in Lincoln Park, they are also taking safety precautions.

“We’re just serving through our cough shields, sanitizing, making sure everything’s sanitized after everybody leaves, wearing masks, doing everything we can not to spread everything, or y’know, just staying clean,” said Marple.

And Marple asks that staff at other bars, as well as customers, do the same to protect not only themselves, but others. “It’s not fake. Some people might not feel it but there’s been hundreds of thousands of deaths already so we know it’s real,” he said.

Meanwhile, at The Reef on London Road, two sanitizer stations have been installed in different parts of the bar. They’re also taking other measures.

“We’re wiping down the tables when a table leaves,” said owner Dan Landgren. “So I think we got everything in place that we need. It’s going to happen that people are going to have to wear masks in here we know that and we kind of appreciate that right now.”

Landgren said while he feels he’s doing everything he’s supposed to, he knows the businesses that aren’t are what’s troubling Gov. Walz, causing his threat of a shutdown.

“This governor is not afraid to do anything like that. He will do it and we will pay the consequences,” said Landgren.

Consequences, that after the past three months closed could be disastrous for these business.

“We don’t want to close again,” Landgren said, “We don’t want to close again.”

“Can’t make money shut down,” said Marple at the Caddy Shack, before getting back to scrubbing and cleaning behind the bar.

“Bankruptcy would be a real consideration,” Dave Hoops said.

And as Coronavirus cases statewide reach over 39,000 with over 1,000 deaths as of Tuesday, the Governor says responsibility falls not only on business owners, but on the customers that frequent them.

“The establishments themselves can set up guidance but the people coming in there: don’t gather together without a mask,” he said at the press conference.

According to Landgren, it’s a result of not having anywhere to go without the stay-at-home order in place. But him, along with Marple and Hoops, say that bars and their customers must be in this together, or the bars may not be around at all.

“We’ve had our timed cooped up and now we’re letting loose a little bit and, but you gotta remember this is an invisible pandemic and we got to, it’s still here,” Landgren said. “It’s here.”

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