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Northland business owners concerned outdoor dining won’t be feasible

PROCTOR, MN-- A group of restaurant and bar owners in Carlton and St. Louis counties are making a plea to Minnesota's governor to let them open for business, inside their buildings.

Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday the next phase of the "Stay Safe" order which allows limited outdoor dining at restaurants and bars along with salons and barbershops.

"We're not looking to thrive, we're looking to survive," said the owner of The Jack bar in Cloquet, Adam Bailey.

Gov. Walz's latest decision has left some restaurant and bar owners puzzled.

Owner of Power House Bar in Proctor, Dick Kari said, "Everybody was surprised by this order that he came out with."

The order states outdoor dining can begin on June 1 with restaurants maintaining social distancing and seating no more than 50 people at a time.

"We were so excited to be opening, we were proactive. We bought the thermometers, we had extra masks come in, we were doing the tables distant," said Tara Engel, owner of Doc's Bar and Grill in Sturgeon Lake and Esko.

But that's an unrealistic ask for businesses in Northern Minnesota, according to Kari. He said, "The weather in this area, it can change in a minute."

Bailey said it's about more than running a business. "This is how we pay for our families to live. This is our livelihoods."

If businesses are unable to open under the new guidelines, that could likely mean more losses.

"For all these other little places that are closing and can't keep up or open because they don't have food or a patio, it's devastating," said Missy Stanius, Bartender at Doc's and White Bear Bear.

Next week, these bar owners are asking others from all over the state to gather and explore options on how to reopen and how to have their concerns reach St. Paul.

"We wanna do this in a very smart and safe fashion following the CDC guidelines," said Bailey.

That meeting will be held at the Powerhouse Bar parking lot in Proctor, Wednesday at 2 p.m.

Those hosting the meeting are asking people to social distance, bring your own chair, and wear a mask.

Owners of bars, restaurants, salons, and more are welcome.

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Jessie Slater

Evening Anchor and Reporter

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