Mayor Jacob Frey orders closure of all indoor bar areas in Minneapolis

Table seating, including high-tops, will be allowed under the order so long as customers continue to follow existing state guidelines. That means businesses don’t have to shut their doors entirely.

Image credit: Twitter via @Jacob_Frey

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey issued an emergency regulation Wednesday night ordering the closure of all indoor bar areas.

According to a press release from Frey’s office, the order will take effect at 5 p.m. Saturday. The bar areas within restaurants, clubs, taprooms, and other indoor spaces are required to close.

Table seating, including high-tops, will be allowed under the order so long as customers continue to follow existing state guidelines. That means businesses don’t have to shut their doors entirely.

“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,” Frey said in a statement.

“By focusing on bar areas, which are proven to be hot beds 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,” he continued.

The mayor’s office said at least nine bars have met the state’s definition of a “patron outbreak,” which means at least seven customers of the same bar tested positive. Another three bars have met the definition of a workplace outbreak – at least three employees testing 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 Minneapolis Health Department said it’s reporting a rate of 18 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 per day, compared to a statewide rate of roughly 11 new cases per 100,000.

Frey said the order was developed “through a racial equity lens,” since black residents account for 34 percent of positive cases but only 19 percent of the population.

The mayor said he consulted with Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama, in drafting the regulation. Slavitt, a resident of Edina, said on Twitter earlier this month that he asked Gov. Tim Walz to reclose all bars for indoor service in the state.

“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,” Slavitt commented. “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.”

Erik Hansen, a Community Planning and Economic Development official, said the office will be fielding questions, providing guidance, and helping businesses with compliance.