Governor Walz Imposes Bar and Restaurant Curfew, Limits Social Gathering Size, Expands Enforcement Authority

| Nov 11, 2020 | COVID-19

Today, Governor Walz issued Executive Order 20–96.  Starting Friday, November 13, 2020, bars and restaurants must close for on-premises consumption by 10:00 P.M.  They are capped at 50 percent capacity, with no more than 150 total patrons in both indoor and outdoor spaces.  The Order also requires compliance with rules posted to the Stay Safe Minnesota website.  Currently, the website says that bar games are prohibited starting November 13.  Bar counter service is closed, unless the establishment is counter service only.  “For counter service only establishments, patrons may line up with mask and social distance for service and then return to seat.”  The Order targets those between the age of 18 and 35, whose social interactions cause Covid outbreaks.

The Governor also decided that no social gatherings may include members of more than 3 households, including the host, whatever the size.  All social gatherings, including those that include less than three households, are capped at 10 individuals.  Under the Order, no group of individuals from 4 or more households or group of 11 or more individuals may gather for a common or coordinated social, community, or leisure purpose “even if social distancing can be maintained.”  The Order coincides with the upcoming holidays.  Noting that friends and family are often “just as risky” as strangers, the Governor encourages Minnesotans “to rely on virtual and remote options to continue their holiday traditions.” The Governor specifies that organizers of noncompliant in-person social gatherings will be subject “to appropriate enforcement action by city, county, and/or state authorities.”

Executive Order 20–96 expands the State’s enforcement authority.  “[T]hreatened violations” of the Order are now actionable.  Moreover, the State may now recover legal fees and investigation costs.  It appears this relief is only available against businesses, but the deletion of the words “from businesses” makes this result unclear.  An individual’s willful violation of the Order remains a criminal offense—a misdemeanor punishable by a fine or 90 days’ imprisonment.

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