Jason Vincent, owner of the Boat Club Restaurant, had just reopened his restaurant in Duluth's Fitger's Mall for curbside pickup Wednesday after being completely closed for 10 weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vincent, who also owns the Vanilla Bean restaurants in Two Harbors and Duluth, said there was "good energy" among staff and everyone was "thinking we were preparing for a June 1 opening to be ready to welcome customers back." He said he was expecting Wednesday's announcement from Gov. Tim Walz to allow for small numbers of customers to dine inside restaurants with social distancing guidelines in place, something that's been banned in Minnesota since March.
Instead, Walz announced restaurants and bars can reopen for dine-in services only on outdoor dining spaces with tables six feet apart and a capacity of 50 people.
"I'm still kind of taking in the news," Vincent said. "I'm actually very shocked (Walz) is not allowing any indoor dining. Going into today, I really had assumed or though that there would be some level of indoor dining allowed."
Vincent said the Vanilla Bean in Duluth doesn't have any outdoor seating while the Two Harbors location only has four tables. While the Boat Club has more outdoor seating, it's on the shores of Lake Superior, which keeps its surroundings cold well into summer.
Vincent, who is also vice president of the Duluth Local Restaurant Association, said he isn't sure if he'll open outdoor seating come June 1.
In Virginia, Sawmill Saloon & Restaurant owners Alissa and Patrick Horan said they were also frustrated by the outdoor dining announcement and had hoped to reopen the inside of the Sawmill to a certain percentage of capacity as they've seen in other states.
"The briefing today was a huge blow," Patrick said. "We're spending a lot of money to be able to even serve under the guidelines that were being directed, which makes it extremely hard."
The couple is already looking at expanding the Sawmill's deck to accommodate more people. Currently, it only has seven tables.
Additionally, the cost of meat is rising and the Sawmill has purchased disposable menus, personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer and other items meant to keep guests and employees safe. Plus, additional patio furniture is likely needed accommodate more outdoor guests.
"The prices continue to climb," Alissa said. "You don't want to end up charging $15 for a burger, but when you're trying to factor in having to provide (personal protective equipment) for employees, the increased cost to operate, you're kind of getting to a point where you have to possibly increase your prices to make it be worthwhile to stay open."
But others see Walz's order as progress.
"I think we're cautiously optimistic," Tom Wroblewski, the general manager of Canal Park Brewing Company, said. "It give us the ability to have some people sit outside if that's what they want to do. It's just we have to figure out how that's going to work for us."
Barbershops, salons ready to reopen
Walz's order also allowed for hair care businesses to reopen June 1 with social distancing guidelines and operating at 25% capacity.
Anthony Holliday, owner of Duluth Gentlemen's Choice in the Miller Hill Mall, said he's ready to reopen and is already booked up.
"I feel really good ... I'm excited for it," Holliday said.
He said he's taking extra precautions to make sure the shop is sanitized and even rearranged barber chairs eight feet apart.
Jenny Herrick, a hair stylist who rents a booth at Unwind Salon in Lakeside, had more mixed emotions.
"Salons reopening is exciting but nerve-wracking for me," Herrick said. "On one hand, I’m excited to see my clients again. As an extrovert I love chatting with them and they become like family to me. I miss them a lot. On the other hand, though, I do worry about the unknowns of the new normal."
She said that while she's received guidelines from the Governor's office, she's waiting for clearer industry-specific guidelines from the Minnesota State Board of Cosmetology.
"I hope they give us all the information we need to know before opening our doors June 1," Herrick said.