East Grand Forks bars see uptick in traffic from across the river

A couple enters Sickie's Garage in East Grand Forks on Monday, Sept. 14. Tanner Robinson / WDAY

EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. — A Facebook video posted in a group called Grand Forks Rants, Raves and Reviews captures the migration of Grand Forks bar goers to East Grand Forks this past weekend, looking for somewhere to keep the night going.

A number of bar owners on the East Side say this has been common after Grand Forks mayor Brandon Bochenski proposed the order to close bars down earlier to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"It spreads out the business, so there's going to be less people earlier in the day than there would be normally," said Patrick Boppre, the co-owner of Blue Moose Bar & Grill.

EGF city administrator David Murphy has fielded many questions on if the city will mirror what Grand Forks did.

According to Minnesota state law, the city doesn't have the authority to close bars earlier unless the state department of health says otherwise.


David Murphy, the city administrator in East Grand Forks, looks over some papers. Tanner Robinson / WDAY

"I don't know how (keeping bars open) would be more of a concern than the traffic that goes between the two cities on a regular basis," Murphy said.

Debbie Swanson, the director of Grand Forks Public Health, said in a statement the large numbers of migration are a concern, especially if people stay indoors for a long period of time and don't distance.

But Boppre said he's confident people will follow restrictions once they get to Minnesota.

"There's always gonna be a worry, but the restrictions in Minnesota are well above North Dakota," he said.

Even though there are tighter restrictions, Murphy said the concern of a spike in cases lingers.

"All we can ask of our business owners is that they just follow the rules that the Minnesota Department of Health puts out and we'll go from there," he said.


Although most owners said the migration is more of a boom than a bust so far, they also said they can only hope to enjoy it while it lasts.

"I have a feeling that this will be short-lived," Boppre said.

According to the latest COVID-19 data from North Dakota and Minnesota, Grand Forks currently sits at a positivity rate of just over 5%, while Polk County — where EGF is — sits at just over 2%.

Tanner Robinson is a producer for First News on WDAY-TV.
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