Tough Road Ahead After Gov. Walz’s New Restrictions, Local Bars Say
The restrictions limit bars and restaurants to below 50% capacity with no more than 150 people total, with mandatory closure 10p-4a.
DULUTH, Minn.- Minnesota Governor Tim Walz turned the dial back Tuesday, with new COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings and bars and restaurants in particular. Some local bar owners and staff throughout Duluth spoke out.
Gov. Walz says these rules are because 71% of COVID cases from June to November were spread through private social gatherings, weddings, funerals, and bars.
In a press conference Tuesday he said bars are considered among higher-risk areas for COVID-19 spread because of how laid back people can become after a few drinks.
Local bar workers said they can see his logic but it still means a tough road ahead.
“It’ll kill us,” said Joel Miller, owner of Copacetic Lounge on Central Entrance.
The restrictions limit bars and restaurants to below 50% capacity with no more than 150 people total.
That, coupled with winter Miller said, is a huge blow to his business. “With the cold weather I can’t use the patio outside as much so that’s gonna hurt us.”
Walz also mandates “all establishments must close and remain closed each day for on-premises consumption between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m.” A shock for the Copacetic Lounge owner.
“I mean that’s, from 10 til’ 2 that’s our bread and butter,” Miller said.
Miller said he believes issuing these rules for bars and restaurants statewide aren’t completely fair.
“I don’t think it’s accurate,” he said. “I think it’s house parties, I think it’s, I, shopping y’know I was at Walmart yesterday and I was with more people than I was all day here at the bar.”
Meanwhile, the bartender at Dubh Linn Irish Brew Pub downtown said he can understand the new restrictions.
“They got the science behind it I mean I watched the whole interview and it makes sense and sure it’s gonna suck but I think it’s something that probably has to get done,” said David Roden.
Since the pandemic’s start, Roden said Dubh Linn has taken measures to encourage as much social distancing as possible.
“We’ve had all the seating out pretty much since the beginning for COVID so just to kind of turn people away from just congregating at the bar and just to kind of space things out we opened up the back room too,” he said.
On busier Friday nights, he said they have people posted at each entrance to count, require mask-wearing, and let other staff know when they have reached close to capacity.
Still, he anticipates that having less customers in due to Walz’s new guidelines will ultimately cause hours to be cut. “Already like my hours have been a little decreased and all that so it’s probably gonna be a little more decreased.”
“Because you wanna, you know we got like probably four to five different families technically working here so I mean everybody wants to make their share,” said the bartender.
But he said the crew will try what they can to drum up business like more takeout service.
Back at Copacetic, Miller said while he is frustrated, he does think the restrictions will ultimately help surging case numbers.
“Unfortunately I do think it will help but it’s gonna kill me,” he said.
The new restrictions take effect this Friday the 13th.
Roden said more notice would have been nice but he understands the urgency with the surge in coronavirus. “If you don’t make that decision right away then you allow it to spread more.”
Both bars said it has been hard watching nightlife in Duluth fade away.
“I enjoy bartending so this kind of always cut out, I do enjoy like the social aspect of it interacting and it’s really just kind of I don’t know put a downer on it,” Dubh Linn Bartender Roden said.
“It’s not gonna be the bar experience people want,” said Miller of the new guidelines. “So it’s gonna kill us.”