MOORHEAD — The grills were piping hot and the drinks were fresh off the tap as servers chatted with customers on Monday, Jan. 11 — the first day of restaurants being back open to dine-in traffic in Minnesota.

Customers like Greg Stark were happy to feel the atmosphere again.

"It was awesome to get back inside the store, and being able to come out, come down, sit down and have a drink or something and actually be able to talk to someone," Stark said.

Legends Sports Bar and Grill, 803 Belsly Blvd., has been surviving on takeout orders over the course of the restrictions, managing to avoid staff layoffs. But, server Baylee Engquist said, seeing faces inside again is a breath of fresh air.

"It means the world. These last couple months, with the second shutdown, and then even with the first shutdown, it's been tough on our people mentally and emotionally."

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Meanwhile, at Speak Easy Restaurant, 1001 30th Ave. S., Sonya Donahue was going through her first day as general manager. She said her experience working at North Dakota bars during the pandemic made the transition easier.

"It was limited as well with the seating and such, and you could see that there were quite a few people that were nervous about coming out," Donahue said.

As customers masked up at the bar, and servers blocked off every other table to adhere to social distancing guidelines, Donahue said most didn't mind the changes, especially one of her bartenders.

"He was very excited to see his regulars come back and eat lunch, and it's just a little bit of a positive feeling for what we've all been going through," she said.

While traffic may be limited to 50% capacity for now, Donahue and other managers said having this kind of business again gives them hope for what may be ahead.

"I can't wait for it all to be full and for us to just move on," Donahue said.