Benson, Pratt: Walz must announce on Monday a plan to re-open closed businesses

Benson, Pratt: Walz must announce on Monday a plan to re-open closed businesses 

(ST. PAUL, MN) – Senators Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake) and Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake) sent a letter to Governor Walz outlining the timeline expectations of the hospitality industries to effectively reopen on January 11. Walz issued Executive Order 20-99 and shutdown bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues on November 21, then extended the closures until January 10with Executive Order 20-103. There has been no clear direction or metrics given to these businesses as to when they will be able to reopen. The letter asks for Walz to re-open these vital economic engines and job providers at 50% capacity on January 11 and to let them know his plans by January 4, so they have time to plan.  

“Anyone who runs a restaurant knows it’s not just flipping a switch to re-open. The industry needs time to order supplies and schedule employees at least a week in advance,” said Pratt. “We wanted to urge the Governor to make his intentions clear by Monday, January 4, so businesses know if they can reopen, as they hope to, on January 11. Waiting too long to announce plans will delay re-opening, and it may cause them to permanently close.” 

In December, Walz delayed by his initial decision timeline to extend the closures by five days, leaving thousands of businesses in the dark about what they could do. “Every one of these businesses already suffered from the Governor’s delays to announce he was extending the closures. There is absolutely no need to repeat that process,” said Benson. “We continue to see improvement on the COVID-19 front. Hospitalizations and percent positive test numbers are down, and hospitals are staffed for ICU beds. Given this optimistic trend, the Governor should safely open restaurants or tell us what goals need to be met to do so.” 

The letter also makes two suggestions to better handle COVID-19 mitigation efforts. First, it suggests the administration target enforcement actions on businesses that have verified outbreaks, rather than a snitch line. Those who commit violations should be closed for up to seven days for mandatory sanitation and re-training of staff. Second, it recommends a council of industry representatives and administration officials to review what health and sanitation protocols are necessary to avoid future statewide closures.  

Senate Republicans previously gave frustrated restaurant and bar owners a platform to share their concerns and experiences. You can watch the press conference here.  

Relevant portions of the letter follow: 

In Executive Order 20-103, you extended the restrictions on bars and restaurants until January 11 with some limited options for outdoor service. The hospitality industry has repeatedly advised us they need at least 7 days advance notice in order to purchase inventory and schedule staff. Given the inventory losses these entities suffered in November due to the quick implementation of Executive Order 20-99, it is imperative you allow sufficient lead time for these businesses to resume operations.  

As the Chairs of the Senate Jobs & Economic Growth and Senate Health & Human Services committees, we urge you to: 

  • Notify hospitality businesses, including lodging establishments, still impacted by EO 20-99 and EO 20-103 of your plans no later than January 4. 
  • Allow restaurants and bars to resume indoor operations at 50% capacity effective January 11. 
  • Target enforcement actions to establishments that have verified outbreaks, closing them for up to seven days to allow for cleaning and retraining. 
  • Establish a council of industry representatives and your administration to review health and sanitation protocols to avoid future statewide closures.