With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz once again exercised the emergency powers granted to him under the law to exercise general direction and control of the public health emergency. Beginning Friday December 18, 2020 at 11:59 pm and lasting through Sunday, January 10, 2020 at 11:59 p.m., individuals and businesses must continue to comply with Executive Order 20-99 (can be found here) except as modified by Executive Order 20-103 (can be found here).
There are a number of provisions in the executive order that are of particular concern for the following identified Minnesota businesses:
- The previous travel advisory suggestion to practice self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival has been lifted.
- Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, bars, taverns, breweries and other businesses in the hospitality industry which were required to close may now provide outdoor service as long as they ensure physical distancing of at least six feet between parties at different tables, seat no more than four customers at one table, and close for outdoor on-premises consumption between 10:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m.
- Gymnasiums, fitness centers, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, and enumerated similar facilities may be open for individual exercise in accordance with applicable guidance found at https://staysafe.mn.gov/ and limit capacity to the lesser of 25% of normal occupant capacity determined by the fire marshal or 100 people, maintain 12 feet of physical distance in any area where people are exercising and 6 feet in all other situations, and require all persons to wear face coverings. The order covers communal facilities in apartment buildings, condominiums, and housing complexes.
- Venues providing permanent, temporary, or mobile outdoor events may be open in accordance with applicable guidance at the Stay Safe Minnesota website (linked above) and limit capacity to 25% of normal occupant capacity up to 100 people, refrain from offering food or beverages between 10:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. and ensure that customers are seated while eating and/or drinking. These venues are encouraged to offer drive-in or drive-through experiences where participants remain in their vehicles.
In order to mitigate the economic damage caused by the pandemic, on December 16th, Governor Walz also signed into law a bi-partisan economic relief package that provides $216 million in aid to impacted small businesses and workers. Some of the highlights of the relief package are:
- $114.8 million for counties to make grants to eligible struggling businesses and nonprofits. Each county would receive the greater of $200,000 or a per capita amount based on its 2019 population;
- $88 million to businesses that have seen at least a 30 percent decline and that provide on-site food and beverages; including bars, restaurants, breweries and wineries; bowling alleys; and fitness or sports recreation centers. Payments would be $10,000-$45,000 based on the number of employees and will be mailed out to entitled businesses by early January. No action is needed on the part of the business. Minnesota Revenue will issue checks based on employment tax and sales tax records;
- $14 million for movie theaters and multipurpose convention centers with a capacity of at least 1,500 people. A per screen formula would be used to help movie theaters and several factors would be considered for convention center allocations. Convention center awards would need to be used for direct operations and facility upkeep; and
- a 13-week extension of state unemployment benefits for approximately 100,000 Minnesotans whose benefits would otherwise run out on December 27th. The extended benefits will pay an average $400 per week through April 10, 2021.
Businesses and their operators are reminded that Chapter 12 of Minnesota Statutes, which authorizes the governor’s emergency powers, provides for criminal penalties including fines and imprisonment. The State has exercised its right to suspend the liquor license of bars and restaurants that willfully fail to comply with Executive Order 20-99 and the attorney general has announced his intent to obtain injunctions against businesses that continue to ignore the restrictions of the emergency orders.
If you have questions about COVID-19 restrictions or other business law issues, then please feel free to reach out to attorney Tom Cross or another Bridge Law Group, Ltd. attorney to schedule a consultation.
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