After being closed since mid-November, bars and restaurants can open for indoor service this week, as can movie theaters and other entertainment venues, following a loosening of COVID-19 restrictions by Gov. Tim Walz.

Walz announced the changes in a Jan. 6 press conference, and the new order took effect Monday, Jan. 11, after the previous executive order expired. The new order allows bars and restaurants to open at 50% capacity with no more than six people to a table or parties of two at the bar. Reservations are required, and dine-in service must end by 10 p.m.

Indoor entertainment venues like movie theaters, bowling alleys and museums can open at 25% capacity. Face masks are required, and food service must likewise end by 10 p.m.

Walz said that his decision to ease restrictions is primarily due to falling coronavirus cases in Minnesota and the rollout of vaccines statewide.

“The situation in Minnesota is undeniably better than it was last month,” he said. “We have reasons to be optimistic, and Minnesotans' sacrifice and commitment to their communities helped change the pandemic's trajectory and saved lives.”

However, Walz also insisted that “we can't let our guard down.” He urged the public to continue exercising caution and abiding by public health guidelines, especially mask wearing and social distancing.

“As we cautiously adjust the dials to help Minnesotans return to important elements of their daily lives, we continue to monitor where we stand,” he said. “Two months ago, the pandemic quickly snowballed from manageable to out of control. For our students, our small businesses and public health, we cannot allow that to happen again.”

Walz said that the COVID-19 variant that experts believe makes the virus more contagious is not currently circulating in Minnesota.

“That is something that we're tracking. It will have an impact, but it will only have an impact if we allow it to get in,” he said. “One of the ways we don't allow it to get in: wear the mask, social distancing, wash your hands, stay home if you're sick, get a test.”

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