State working to protect workers and public, keep businesses and economy open
Compliance checks find most bars, restaurants observed to be in compliance with safeguards
September 10, 2020
State health and safety officials are stepping up efforts to ensure all bars and restaurants are safe for customers and employees. Compliance teams from the Minnesota Departments of Public Safety (DPS), Health (MDH), Labor and Industry (DLI) and Agriculture (MDA) visited more than 150 bars and restaurants in several communities over the past two weekends.
During those visits, officials say most bars and restaurants are working to comply with COVID-19 executive orders and required guidance designed to reduce the spread of the disease and keep Minnesotans safe.
“We applaud the efforts of the many establishments and customers doing the right things and protecting workers and the public,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “We know the past six months have been tough for Minnesota’s bars and restaurants and we also know that if proper precautions are not followed in these settings, the result can be accelerated spread of COVID-19 in the community. These enforcement efforts are aimed at ensuring that the minority of businesses that are not following the guidelines bring their establishments into compliance.”
Compliance teams conducted checks in Mankato, St. Peter, Waseca, Faribault, and New Ulm August 28 and 29; and Carver and Scott counties September 4 and 5. Out of 167 establishments visited:
• 88 establishments were observed following the safety and health requirements.
• 79 bars and restaurants were not in compliance, with one or more minor violations.
• Of those not in compliance, 31 bars and restaurants were referred for follow-up inspections by MDH and DLI for issues such as customers and workers not wearing masks when required, failure to maintain social distancing, and a lack of COVID-19 Preparedness Plans and worker training.
Focus on keeping businesses open, avoid more restrictions
MDH has received more than 800 complaints of Executive Order violations at restaurants and bars regulated by MDH and has referred more than 400 complaints to delegated agencies since July 13. Fifty bars and restaurants met the MDH definition for a COVID-19 outbreak by the end of August.
While some neighboring states have more restrictions on bars and restaurants, including closures or bans on indoor seating, Minnesota officials have instead relied on a more focused enforcement approach. This is something the Minnesota hospitality industry urged, noting that more restrictions would impact all bars and restaurants, whether or not they were complying with safety and health precautions.
“Requiring the right actions of everyone will help ensure a level playing field for businesses and will help keep bars and restaurants open in Minnesota. It will also keep our economy moving in the right direction and slow the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state,” said Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington.
When bars and restaurants are found to not be in compliance, state officials work to educate them, bring them into compliance and if necessary, elevate to enforcement action. State agencies have assisted thousands of businesses since the pandemic began in March 2020. More than 40 bars and restaurants have reached out to the state with health and safety guidance questions following the announcement of the increased enforcement efforts. (See list of requirements that were part of the initial compliance checks below.)
Customers share responsibility in keeping businesses open
Inspectors observed that in some situations, businesses were making efforts to follow guidance requirements, but customers were not doing their part to protect worker safety and public health. Customers who refuse to wear masks and ignore social distancing guidelines by moving tables and chairs to accommodate larger groups jeopardize the operations of these businesses.
“Limiting the spread of disease will keep our businesses open and gives workers the confidence they need that they’re working in a safe environment,” said Minnesota Labor and Industry Temporary Commissioner Roslyn Robertson. “COVID-19 can spread easily in bars and restaurants, if the proper precautions are not followed. An outbreak in one bar can lead to a community outbreak through the spread from patrons to their household members, co-workers, and other members of the community.”
“Keeping bars and restaurants open is critical to our state’s economy. We need everyone to follow the guidelines to ensure we slow the spread of COVID-19 so that these businesses can continue to operate,” said Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen.
The Health Department has developed a customer checklist to help customers know what they should be looking for when evaluating the steps a bar and restaurant is taking to mitigate the risk of virus transmission. The checklist can be found on the state’s COVID-19 website: StaySafeMN Customer Checklist for bars and restaurants. Health officials hope the checklist will empower Minnesotans to make their own decisions about which establishments to visit.
For information about COVID-19 industry guidance and compliance assistance, contact the appropriate state agency or go to the Minnesota COVID-19 website (staysafe.mn.gov).
• Minnesota Department of Health: For questions about COVID-19 and guidance for businesses, call 651-297-1304.
• Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry: For workplace safety and health questions, call Minnesota OSHA at 651-284-5050 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bar and Restaurant Checklist:
• Establishments are requiring customers to make reservations.
• All employees are wearing face coverings at all times over their mouth and nose.
• Customers are wearing face coverings over their mouth and nose at all times while indoors unless they are eating or drinking.
• Customers are maintaining six feet of social distancing while waiting to be seated, to use the restroom, to order a drink or food, or to pay their bill.
• All customers are seated at tables limited to parties of four, or six if members of the same household, and tables are six feet apart.
• Signs are posted that communicate face covering requirements to customers and workers.
• Establishment are filled to no more than 50 percent capacity, with a maximum of 250 people, with social distancing.
• Establishments have developed and implemented a COVID-19 preparedness plan.