Austin restaurants and bars react to loosened restrictions |

Austin restaurants and bars react to loosened restrictions

Devin Martin
Created: May 08, 2021 06:42 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- Starting this weekend, you can dine in and stay later at restaurants and bars. Many business owners and staff have been waiting for this day to come. This is part of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz's plan to loosen COVID-19 restrictions over time. 

As of now, bars and restaurants are operating at 75-percent capacity. This week though, hours are resuming as normal for the first time this year, past 11:00 p.m., "To have the restrictions loosened is a big relief, not just for us who work in the industry, but for all our customers too," Amber Flategraff, bartender at B & J Bar and Grille in Austin, said.

It was a busy Saturday at the B & J Bar and Grill. Servers were taking orders left and right, bartenders were making drinks fast, and staff says this energy can be felt at night too. 

Under Gov. Walz's former restrictions, bars were mandated to close at 11 p.m. But now, they can stay open through the night, "We were open till 1 o'clock last night. It was nice and busy and it felt good, the vibe was amazing," Flategraff said. 

But even with the establishment now running at 75-percent capacity, Amber says she wishes all the tables can be full at 100-percent capacity and asks Gov. Walz to do more, "It would be nice to get it back to the 100-percent, it affects everyone in different ways, you know? As long as he makes the steps to get it back to how it was before the shutdown, I understand some of the decisions, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, one step at a time, we're getting there," Flategraff said. 

Down the street from B and J Bar and Grille is The Bakery Lounge. Back in February when Gov. Walz announced restaurants and bars were limited to open their businesses to only until 11 p.m., owner Curtis Sorenson said at the time, more needed to be done, "The data does not show bars and restaurants are a hot spot. Why 11 p.m.? If we're able to be open and be at 50-percent capacity, why do we have to close at 11?" Sorenson said. 

But now, Curtis says this move by Gov. Walz is a step in the right direction for his business but he also adds that he wants the governor to do more, "It's great it feels like a lot of weight is off our shoulders. We would like to see the no masks as well. Vaccinations are getting close to that 70-percent he was talking about. We have everything available. All of the employees are doing it but at this point, I think it's a nuisance more than anything," Sorenson said.

But having the freedom to stay open until 1:00 a.m. Sorenson says, was an amazing feeling, "It was really nice last night, I got some calls close to 1:00 a.m., we had a great crowd. Everybody was there, right up until the end like a normal 1:00 a.m. Friday night should be," Sorenson said.

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