Duluth Businesses Start Planning for Gov. Walz to Loosen Dining Restrictions Wednesday

Some bar and restaurant owners wait to see if restrictions loosen enough to make reopening profitable.

DULUTH, Minn.- As Minnesota Governor Tim Walz is expected Wednesday to loosen some restrictions for businesses such as restaurants, some in Duluth wait to see if restrictions loosen enough to make reopening profitable.

“Now what loosening means is still to be determined but let’s be honest, something is better than what we’re doing now,” said Jason Vincent, restaurant owner and Vice President of the Duluth Restaurant Association.

Indoor dining has not been allowed since mid-November, after Gov. Walz put a pause in place because of rising COVID-19 case numbers around Thanksgiving. That ban is set to continue through January 10th.

Even though he’s looking forward to the Governor loosening restrictions, Vincent said it all depends on how loose they will be — especially when it comes to capacity limits.

“25%, I will have to really dig deep and consider whether we’ll open,” he said. “It’s really tough to break even at 25%. For my business and my concept that I have, 50% is about my break even.”

Vincent’s Boat Club Restaurant in the Fitger’s Complex has been doing takeout throughout the restrictions.

While news of the Governor’s announcement will give him some time to get things in order, it’s not an easy flick of the switch to restart a restaurant.

“We have to restock our coolers with food, bar inventory, get liquor orders, beer orders, coffee orders, linens, get your vendors back online. I haven’t even done my schedule,” he said. “My people don’t know when they’re working in five days which is a tough thing in itself.”

Meanwhile Wild State Cider in Lincoln Park has been getting creative with their outdoor fireplace seating reservations. They’ve also seen sales of growlers and cans increase.

“Indoor seating definitely helps and we’re looking forward to being able to safely have indoor seating again but in the time begin,” said Director of Marketing and Operations, Allison Longley. “We’re happy to do curbside pickup, growler sales, can sales and outdoor seating.”

They are also waiting before rushing to get people back in. “We’re just kinda waiting to see what happens and we need to make the determination on how we can keep our folks safe and also keep our staff safe,” she said.

While they can rely on their new outdoor space, Vincent said he can’t with the Boat Club.

For an operation of his size, he said, it wouldn’t be feasible for him to invest in heating or tents, especially right up against a fierce Lake Superior during these winter months.

Still the Boat Club and Vanilla Bean owner said while the past nine months have been beyond tough, he understands Gov. Walz’s method to get Minnesota open safely again for good.

“”He’s listening to the experts and letting the guidance make his decision and to me that’s most important,” said Vincent. “I take it a little more personal than just the business perspective I also try to look out for my employees.”

Though he believes the time has come for his fellow establishments to start the journey back to normal.

“I think in general the Duluth restaurant community is ready to start welcoming people back,” he said.

Governor Walz is set to speak Wednesday around 2 p.m. You can catch his address live here on our website, and on our Facebook page.

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