On a day restaurants were allowed to reopen to outdoor service, the News Tribune found that dozens of bars and restaurants throughout St. Louis County have sought temporary use permits to allow them to serve dining customers outdoors.

In Greater St. Louis County, 30 establishments sought expansion licenses. In Duluth, 16 restaurants sought temporary use permit applications, while three filed sidewalk use permit applications.

The state further relaxed COVID-19 restrictions Monday, allowing for outdoor dining. Most of the establishments aiming to add outdoor service are doing so on the fly, moving into lawns, lots and sidewalks.

At Blue Max, on Fish Lake outside Duluth, restaurant-goers returned with two tables of people who'd reserved space for lunch. The bar has a deck, but sought expansion into its lawn so that it can occupy up to the state-allowed maximum of 50 people.

Manager John Snyder envisions a canopy tent with tables. He said even partial reopening will help.

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"It's nice to be able to offer it again," Snyder said. "I foresee the weekends will be a big benefit for us."

In May, the St. Louis County Board relaxed its permitting process in order to allow restaurants to take advantage of outdoor expansion.

The city of Duluth waived permit fees and said it's working with business owners to create site plans and spread out to accommodate for social distancing. Because many of the applications came in Monday and are still being processed, the city has yet to release the names of establishments seeking expansion.

"We're working with them on being creative," city spokesperson Kate Van Daele said. "We're trying to be as accommodating as possible."

Notably, OMC Smokehouse in Lincoln Park has added an outdoor canopy tent, Van Daele said.

Like Blue Max, the Sportsmen's Inn, in rural Duluth, has a deck. But owner Cheryl Seeley sought expansion into the yard, so that Sportsmen's Inn would be able to host the maximum 50.

"It's going to help, that's for sure," Seeley said. "Alcohol sales, more people. Nobody could come before — just strictly for to-go food."

Blue Max serves up burger and pizza fare. It closed for two weeks in March as the COVID-19 pandemic brought the closure of public gathering places such as bars, restaurants, churches and hair salons. The business had been providing takeout service for several weeks.

"We're working within our limits," Snyder said, describing how Blue Max is taking the opportunity to replace its floors inside the restaurant.

Snyder said deck tables have been moved farther apart from one another, and a temporary entrance has been moved to the back of the establishment, where customers will encounter a host. Under the updated rules, customers must make reservations. Snyder said some confusion remains about what to do when customers arrive without reservations.

Can they make reservations from the parking lot?

"We don't really know," Snyder said. "We're trying to clarify that. Unfortunately, we keep hearing different things, so we're not sure. We're doing our best."

Manager John Snyder puts up brand new umbrellas on the deck at Blue Max Monday afternoon. Snyder said it's been great seeing community members come together to support the restaurant. Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)
Manager John Snyder puts up brand new umbrellas on the deck at Blue Max Monday afternoon. Snyder said it's been great seeing community members come together to support the restaurant. Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)


Establishments that sought temporary expansion with St. Louis County

  • Ash Trail Lodge, Orr
  • Bil-Mar’s Supper Club, Hibbing
  • Blue Max, Duluth
  • Boondocks Saloon and Grill, Duluth
  • Britt Lounge Bar and Grill, Britt
  • Burntside Lodge, Ely
  • Cast Iron, Bar and Grill, Duluth
  • Clearwater Grille and Events Center, Duluth
  • Country Corner Saloon and Grill, Brookston
  • Echo Trail Tavern, Orr
  • Hi Banks Resort, Duluth
  • Kettle Falls Hotel, Ray
  • Log Cabin Tavern and Cafe, Angora
  • Melrude Whistle Stop, Melrude
  • Munger Tavern and Grill, Cloquet
  • Pelican Lake Resort at Norway Point, Orr
  • Saginaw Grand Lake Station, Saginaw
  • Samz' Place, Ely
  • Sandy Point Lodge and Resort, Ray
  • Sportsmen’s Inn, Duluth
  • The Breeze Inn, Duluth
  • The Clip Joint Bar and Grill, Alborn
  • The Crescent Bar and Grill, Cook
  • The Dam Supper Club, Orr
  • The Rocky Ledge, Kabetogama
  • The Wooden Table Inn, Britt
  • Vermilion Club, Tower
  • Vermilion River Tavern, Buyck
  • Wilbert Cafe and El Toro Lounge, Cotton
  • Wolf Bay Lodge, Buyck