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Some Northland businesses put a pause on complete reopening, citing public health concerns

Although allowed to reopen, many Northland businesses are keeping their businesses closed to the public.

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Krystal Carlock and her seven-year-old daughter Reya of Faribault, Minnesota pick up their order Friday from Great Lakes Lakes Candy Kitchen in Knife River. --- (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Although many businesses in the Northland were allowed to reopen their doors recently, some have opted to keep their in-store services closed for the time being.

Maintaining the safety of employees and customers is the driving force behind several business owners' decisions to keep customers out of their establishments and continue relying on delivery and curbside orders.

Bars, restaurants, hair salons and more were allowed to open in Wisconsin over a week ago, after the state's Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers' Safer-at-Home order.

In neighborhood Minnesota, shops were allowed to open last week if they had a safety plan in place. Restaurants and bars can accept customers again starting June 1 , but only in outdoor seating areas with tables 6 feet apart.

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Great Lakes Candy Kitchen won't be opening its building to the public for quite some time โ€“ likely until a vaccine is found. Instead, they're opting to do curbside pickup and deliveries, which has proven to be successful. Although this non-reopening may impact profits, the owner Andy Matson would rather be cautious and not have any risk to his employees and the public. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Great! Lakes Candy Kitchen in Knife River is erring on the side of caution. They're keeping doors closed to their indoor shopping area and sticking with delivery and curbside orders, said Andy Matson, who owns the shop alongside his wife Chelsy Whittington.

It was a decision influenced by Matson's desire to be cautious. The Candy Kitchen's shop is too small, as only around one to two people would be allowed in if social distancing guidelines were followed, he said.

"If ... only one person at a time or two people (were allowed in), I feel like there'd be maybe some hurt feelings," Matson said. "It's exciting for a family with kids to come in and look around ... and take their time and pick out what they want."

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Great Lakes Candy Kitchen in Knife River offers online orders with curbside pick-up. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Limiting in-store shopping will likely hurt their profits, but Matson said he places a higher value on customer and employee safety.

Since starting online sales in late April, Matons said sales have been "surprisingly good" but are still not comparable to previous years.

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He's not sure when they will reopen. If a vaccine were to become widely available, then he would feel comfortable reopening the shop.

Pre-pandemic, they typically had around 20 people working throughout the day, with up to seven of them making candy. Now, it's just Matson and Whittington as well as a few other staff members who work solo, ensuring personal interactions are limited at the Candy Kitchen.

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Great Lakes Candy Kitchen owner Andy Matson places a completed order on the porch for pick-up. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

They've also retrofitted their porch with sawhorse tables to allow for easy order pickups. They only offer pickup Wednesday through Saturdays, although, that may expand in the future.

"I know that there are some people that would enjoy coming in and looking around. (But) everyone understands that everything's a little bit different now," he said.

Superior's Cedar Lounge, operated by Earth Rider Brewery, was allowed to open more than a week ago, but it's sticking with carryout orders and will soon open an outdoor taproom on its festival grounds, said Brad Nelson, director of brands.

The outdoor taproom will have grills for cooking and chalk markings on the ground to show social-distance recommendations, and it will be serviced by the indoor taproom's side door. Weather permitting, Charlie Parr will perform every Friday at the outdoor taproom, Nelson said.

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Everyone will be required to wear masks, with masks available for purchase, he said.

Numerous scientific studies finding higher transmission rates in closed spaces influenced their decision to keep the indoor taproom closed, Nelson said.

"Here's the safest way to do it and we're lucky we have the space to make that happen," he said. "We're really excited. But we want to (get) it as close as we can get to being a zero risk for people to go enjoy some time together and some live music."

Also in Superior, Thirsty Pagan Brewing, a brewery and pizza place, has remained closed to in-store dining despite having the option to for over a week.

Owner Steve Knauss said the extra time was used to develop a safe reopening strategy. The business is scheduled to reopen at about 15% capacity Tuesday.

"We're trying to be reasonable, we're trying to be intelligent about it," Knauss said. "The Wisconsin Supreme Court did not make an intelligent move. They made actually a rash move."

The business has received overwhelming support from customers regarding the decision to hold off on reopening, Knauss said. He wasn't concerned about losing any customer base, adding that the clientele is generally "very civic-minded."

Part of the decision to hold off on a partial reopen was due to the fact that a sizable portion of the restaurant's customers are from out of the area.

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"When you get started getting people from out of the area, you want to make sure that you're protecting your staff and protecting your customers as well," Knauss said.

During the partial reopening, around 25-30 people will be allowed to be in the restaurant at a time and customers will be asked to call in to make a reservation. Empty tables will separate parties from each other and staff are required to wear masks. Contrary to the typical dining in experience, customers will be expected to leave after about an hour-and-a-half.

While Knauss would like customers to wear masks when they're not eating, he said it's their call. Looking ahead, Knauss said he's not worried about the reopening, citing the cleanliness standards already ingrained in employees.

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