Still-closed Duluth businesses welcome new reopening guidelines

Fitness centers and outdoor and indoor entertainment venues can reopen at 25% capacity next week.

Photo illustration by Gary Meader /

Minnesotans will soon be allowed to visit entertainment venues and work out at fitness centers, as Gov. Tim Walz announced another round of relaxed COVID-19 regulations on Friday afternoon.

The new round of lifted restrictions marks phase three of the Governor's plan to reopen the state's economy. Changes will go into effect June 10 and Duluth businesses are eager to welcome customers back.

The announcement includes numerous businesses that weren't previously allowed to open their doors. Fitness centers can reopen at 25% capacity. Indoor entertainment venues, like movie theaters and concert venues, can reopen at 25% capacity. Recreational indoor entertainment venues, like bowling alleys, arcades and museums, can reopen at 25% capacity. Outdoor entertainment venues, like concerts, theaters and sporting events, can open at 25% capacity.

One of Duluth's most notable outdoor venues, Bayfront Festival Park, is working to bring back some programming.

Jeff Stark said he's hopeful and optimistic that Bayfront can meet new safety guidelines. The Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center, which manages Bayfront, is working with promoters and event planners who use the waterfront festival grounds, but the event center has seen numerous event cancellations.


"While the 2020 season was poised to be the best ever at Bayfront prior to COVID-19, we are going to make 2021 one to remember. We won’t give up on 2020 just yet, either," Stark, director of venue operations for the DECC and Bayfront Festival Park, wrote in an email.

Holding events at Bayfront with capacity restrictions may not be financially feasible for some events, as they can't be scaled down and still turn a profit, Stark wrote.

Community sponsors have also decreased their financial support as they face financial challenges.

"Event organizers and our staff are some of the most creative problem solvers around and are doing everything in their power to get a portion of 2020 programming online when it is safe and allowable," he wrote.

StoneHouse Martial Arts owner Stefan Stein just finished giving a private martial arts lesson when he heard the news that he could welcome students back to the center.

"It's great news, because we've basically been shut for three months," Stein said.

They were able to start holding private, one-on-one classes for children outside a few days ago. Before that, StoneHouse was holding online classes — impacting the student experience and the business' revenue, he said.

StoneHouse wasn't able to teach hands-on or contact skills, like sparring, which resulted in a watered-down version of its curriculum, he said.


The studio lost around half of its students during the pandemic. "Quite frankly, this was really touch-and-go in terms of financial viability," Stein said.

Martial arts studios, like other fitness centers, can reopen at 25% capacity.

Along with operating at a lower capacity, StoneHouse will also offer a lower number of classes because staff now need more time between courses to sanitize equipment and spaces, Stein said.

He hopes the partial reopening draws students back. "If you want to have local places available that provide those kind of services, whether it's a fitness studio or a martial arts place ... if you want those things available, you need to make sure you go there and support them because there's no magic money anywhere that keeps them alive.

It’s easier to space out and sanitize at gyms and fitness centers, not as much at studios, said Christine Stocke.

The owner of Ignite Studio said Walz is doing the right thing by loosening restrictions, but it just won’t work for them right now.

They measured their workout spaces, did the math and took a poll with their staff and “die-hard participants,” and determined that with the pandemic, Superior Street construction and Duluth summer, opening at 25% capacity would put them in the hole.

They’ll instead stick to their online classes right now, which have been successful.


“Every business is different and you've got to examine what's best of your staff, participants and what’s best for your bottom line,” Stocke said.

Dubh Linn Irish Pub is positioning to open with limited service on Wednesday, but the comedy club will remain closed, said owner Mike Maxim.

They’ve been completing upgrades to the pub for the past month in preparation for an opening date. They’re also almost through a back-door renovation, which will create a public entrance in their alleyway.

"We really just want to make sure we’re following the safety protocols,” Maxim said.

What To Read Next
Get Local