Governor Walz’s new dial back essentially changes nothing for small businesses

Earlier today, Gov. Tim Walz announced a dial back to Minnesota’s COVID-19 restrictions. According to Star Tribune,

The governor expanded numerical capacities of indoor private gatherings and celebrations, such as wedding receptions, from 10 people to 50, though facilities must still operate at only 25% of their fire code capacity. Similarly, restaurants can host 250 people if space permits, but must operate at no more than 50% of their capacity. Restaurants also can remain open until 11 p.m. instead of 10 p.m.

“Our small businesses have made enormous sacrifices for the health of their employees and communities,” Walz said. “Today, we can make these cautious, common sense adjustments to support them because of the progress we have made controlling the spread of COVID-19 and getting the most at-risk Minnesotans vaccinated.”


Other changes include allowances for indoor entertainment venues, pools and gyms to host up to 250 people, but no more than 25% of their fire code capacity. They previously had been capped at 150 people.

Outdoor fairs and events remain capped at 250 people. Walz’s order encourages organizers to consider drive-through alternatives, which aren’t subject to caps or restricted hours of food and beverage service.

This has come after some businesses have expressed concern with COVID-19 restrictions in light of Minnesota’s consistent positive outcomes. Despite the good news that has characterized our COVID-19 outcomes, Governor Walz gave no sign that he intended to dial back restrictions, that is until earlier today. As John Phelan illustrates, this is a problem that the fate of businesses lies in the decision of one person. Without a solid baseline for analyzing risk, decisions on COVID-19 restrictions remain uncertain as they depend merely only on what the Governor deems is the next appropriate step.

Furthermore, looking at the specific adjustments that Walz has announced, there is a lot that can be said is a slap in the face to business owners. Since January 11th, when Walz allowed indoor dining, restaurants, and bars limited seating to 50% capacity. Movie theatres and other entertainment places capped seating at 25%. So, allowing higher numerical limits essentially changes nothing for small establishments. So does pushing back the curfew from 10 pm to 11 pm.

If these dial backs were rooted in science, Walz would have a standard metric that was focused on helping small businesses reopen and get Minnesotans back to work. But clearly, that is not the case.