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The Restaurant Industry Looks to Bounce Back as Covid Restrictions are Loosened

Jan 20, 2021

One of the hardest-hit industries from the pandemic is looking to make a comeback as Governor Tim Walz announced a loosening of restrictions for restaurants. 

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, Governor Walz announced that restaurants could allow indoor dining at 50 percent capacity, with a maximum capacity of 150 people. The loosening of restrictions comes as Minnesota’s seven-day Covid positivity rate dropped from 15.5 percent to 4.7 percent between Nov. 10, and Dec. 24.

The loosened restrictions also allow movie theaters, bowling alleys, museums, and other indoor venues to open up at 25 percent capacity. Youth sports have also resumed practices, as games will resume on Jan. 14, with venue capacity limits.

Some are saying the loosened restrictions are too little too late, as many fan-favorite Twin Cities restaurants have announced their permanent closures due to the pandemic and lack of funds. Chino Latino, Bellecour, Christos, and Butcher and the Boar are among the many restaurants that have had to close their doors for good.

For Nicole Penner, senior, the state’s indoor seating closure for restaurants didn’t affect her, as she continued to serve sandwiches to the community at Jimmy Johns. 

“I’m very fortunate to work at a fast-food restaurant that sees most customers do takeout orders anyways, so through all of the restaurant restrictions I have been able to keep my job,” Penner said. 

Some HHS students aren’t as fortunate though, as many students have faced furloughs and even the loss of jobs as a result of the pandemic, as strict restrictions in specific industries like restaurants have caused many to shut their doors or lose funds to pay for workers. 

Nationwide, it’s estimated that nearly 17 percent of restaurants in the United States had to close permanently or long term, according to Business Insider.

“It’s very unfortunate that students within our community are losing their jobs because many students, especially those who are seniors, are starting to save up for college or even help their families pay bills,” Penner said. 

Though most restaurants have complied with the Governor’s restrictions, some have defied them, most notably Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville. The bar received fines, the loss of their liquor license, and was forced to close with a judge’s order through Jan. 10.

With angry customers, many restaurants attempted to adjust to the restrictions, as they opened up outdoor seating and installed heaters so people could enjoy their meals outdoors during the brutal Minnesota winters. 

Olivia Nicpon, senior, works as a hostess at Maynards, one of the most popular Lake Minnetonka restaurants. 

Due to its popularity, Nicpon was hardly surprised that Minnesotans flocked to the restaurant after Walz lifted indoor seating restrictions.

“I have definitely seen an increase in the number of people dining at Maynards since the Governor loosened the restrictions,” Nicpon said. “Maynards has some very loyal customers and many came to Maynards to celebrate indoor dining being opened again.”

Though many are excited about being able to dine indoors, there is still a big risk involved as people won’t be able to wear their masks for the majority of their time within restaurants.

As a hostess, Nicpon isn’t turning a blind eye to the risks involved with working in a setting where there will be maskless people.

“I truly believe the employees and management at Maynards are doing their best to keep themselves and customers safe, so I was excited to get back to work,” Nicpon said. 

For Penner, most hungry customers continue to take their sandwiches with them to go, ultimately decreasing the risk of contracting Covid.

“Obviously a lot of people were excited and anxious to go back to dining in instead of taking out, but I’m very happy that people are continuing to keep in mind that there is still a pandemic going on, and taking their food to go,” Penner said. 

As the vaccine becomes more available to the public, many hope more restrictions will be lifted, ultimately allowing people to return back to some form of normalcy. 

“It is a privilege to be able to work during these times and I am really grateful to have a sense of normalcy back in my life, even though the restaurant industry looks a little different than in past years,” Nicpon said.

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