Minneapolis bars banned from indoor service

Stella’s Fish Cafe
Stella’s Fish Cafe was cited by Minneapolis health officials for failing to enforce social distancing regulations. The bar has been identified by the state as one of nine establishments in the city to have a COVID-19 outbreak among patrons. Photo by Andrew Hazzard

Minneapolis bars will be prohibited from serving patrons at indoor counters under a new order from Mayor Jacob Frey aimed at limiting COVID-19 outbreaks.

Restaurants, bars, taprooms and nightclubs will be banned from serving at indoor counters beginning at 5 p.m. on Aug. 1 under the mayor’s latest executive order responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Since the state began to allow bars and restaurants to open at limited capacity, cases have trended upward, the mayor said.

“This is an important step to limit community spread,” Frey said.

The order will require drinks to be served to patrons at tables, and it seeks to limit people congregating at bar counters. Employees will be allowed to use the bar space to make drinks and enter orders, but they cannot serve customers there.

Table seating will continue to be allowed indoors, provided businesses follow state guidelines. That means tables must be at least 6 feet apart and only four diners can be at one table — or six from one family.

In Minneapolis, 367 people with COVID-19 said they were exposed or may have exposed others at city bars, according to health commissioner Gretchen Musicant.

Nine Minneapolis bars have been identified as sources of spread by the state, including Uptown Tavern, Stella’s Fish Cafe and The Pourhouse Uptown in Southwest.

People at bars tend to mingle and speak loudly, which is a bad mixture for limiting the spread of COVID-19, which can be transmitted through respiratory droplets.

Right now, Minneapolis has a COVID-19 infection rate of 18 cases per 100,000 residents, Musicant said, higher than the state average of 11 cases per 100,000. While city officials don’t have a specific number targeted, Musicant said an infection rate of 5 cases per 100,000 residents could be a point where lifting more restrictions makes sense.

More than half of the new cases in Minneapolis are among people 35 and younger, according to a city press release. Young adults are increasingly citing bars and other gatherings as their exposure source.