Mayor Frey closes Mpls. indoor bar areas to fight the spread of COVID-19

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Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey held a press conference today to announce his issuance of Emergency Regulation 2020-17 which employs a targeted approach to curb community spread of COVID-19 in Minneapolis bars and restaurants.

Frey’s executive action will effectively close bar areas in restaurants, clubs, and other indoor spaces effective August 1 at 5 pm. This comes at a time that the Minneapolis Health Department is reporting a rate of 18 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 per day, while the statewide rate has remained closer to 11 per 100,000.

Public health experts have roundly attributed the higher rate to people congregating at bars, among other reasons. More than 50% of new cases in Minneapolis continue to be in young adults under age 35 who report increased exposure in bars and at gatherings of friends and family.

“Across the country, we’ve seen data clearly show that a night out at the bar is leading to nights in the hospital for family, friends, and neighbors,” said Frey. “By focusing on bar areas, which are proven to be hotbeds for congregation and community spread, we can help keep Minneapolis trends stable.

“That commitment to public health gives us the best shot at both protecting frontline workers – a disproportionate share of whom are people of color – and keeping our businesses open.”

Watch as Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announces an additional Emergency Regulation to implement new COVID safety measures in the City of Minneapolis.

At least nine Minneapolis bars have met the State’s definition of patron outbreak, with at least seven patrons testing positive. At least three Minneapolis bars have met the definition of workplace outbreak, with at least three employees having tested positive.

“National experts have recommended the consideration of closure of indoor bar areas,” said Minneapolis Health Commissioner Gretchen Musicant. “Local public health data and information from sweeps conducted by City Environmental Health inspectors supports taking that action to stem the rise of cases.”

The new measure was also developed through a racial equity lens with Black Minneapolis residents accounting for at least 34% of positive cases and only 19% of the population. Nationally, Black and Latino Americans are three times as likely to contract the virus and twice as likely to die from it.

“Business Licensing staff will be fielding questions, providing guidance, and helping with compliance for affected businesses,” said CPED official Erik Hansen. “We will continue to prioritize serving as a resource for our small businesses and their teams while helping keep people safe.”

Table seating, including high-tops, will be allowed under the regulation as long as patrons follow the existing state guidance. That guidance sets a four people per table max unless they are in the same family and household with six feet of spacing between tables. The new measure will affect roughly 640 bars, brewpubs, tap rooms, and adult entertainment businesses.

Frey also consulted with national public health experts in drafting the regulation, including Andy Slavitt, the former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“I know Mayor Frey has spent a lot of time looking at all sides of this issue including the rate of case growth and what happens if that should continue. After seeing what is happening around the country and consulting with our best epidemiologists, there is no question in my mind that he has made the correct but difficult decision and parsed the details appropriately. There is a direct correlation of when indoor bars close and how quickly spread is reduced,” said Slavitt. 

The Minneapolis business community also provided feedback. Jonathan Weinhagen, the Minneapolis Regional Chamber CEO praised the decision.

“The raw numbers and share of traceable cases leading us back to bars, national trends, and expert advice have shown we need to take the threat of community spread seriously,” said Weinhagen. “I know that Mayor Frey created this tailored policy with the goal of keeping workers and patrons safe while heading off more sweeping measures like blanket closures.”

Business owners with questions can find more information at 612-673-2080 or businesslicenses@minneapolismn.gov.

The Minneapolis Health and Community Planning and Economic Development departments will monitor, provide education, and actively enforce the new regulation. Members of the public can report a violation of the new law by dialing 3-1-1.  

Information and video courtesy of the City of Minneapolis.

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