North Dakota, Minnesota bar owners dealing with different sets of rules as restrictions get eased
North Dakota bars have been limited to 50% capacity since December, while Minnesota bars haven't allowed dine-in customers since November.
FARGO — During the lunch rush at JL Beers in downtown Fargo, burgers and fries went fresh off the grill as usual.
Dillon Juve, the restaurant's general manager, said he's seen more takeout traffic than dine-in traffic, but he's been happy to see people come and sit for a meal.
"Having a little bit less bar seating does end up where you're turning away more customers every now and again, but it's better being open to some capacity then ending up in a scenario where we have to close entirely," Juve said.
On the other side of the Red River, most of the tables have been empty, including at The Spud Jr. in East Grand Forks.
Owner Justin LaRocque said he's been missing the laughter and conversation that came from customers filling the bar every day, before an executive order by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz prohibited indoor dining in mid-November.
"You used to have regulars that would come in on certain days and certain times and whatnot, and those patterns have been changed now over the last two months," he said.
To get around the lack of dine-in traffic, LaRocque has been using portable ice fishing houses for customers, but he said taking orders over walkie talkies hasn't been the same as taking them at the bar.
"It would've been a lot different if we didn't have (the houses), but it doesn't mean it wasn't without growing pains," LaRocque said. "You're serving in the middle of winter with servers walking outside, bundled up."
Starting Friday, Jan. 8 at 8 a.m., North Dakota bars and restaurants will have the option to go up to 65% capacity.
"I'd love to be able to see a summer where we can get out of this whole (pandemic) here," Juve said. "Obviously, no one really knows what's going to happen in six months."
In LaRocque's case, he's looking forward to serving customers inside again, after nearly two months of not doing that.
"I'm glad that (Gov. Walz is) finally coming to his senses a little bit, and knows that people can't survive forever off takeout orders," he said.