Closing time

Key Largo co-owner Troy Schneekloth takes a to-go order Saturday night. Key Largo, like all other restaurants, was forced to close their doors to indoor diners this past weekend. Photo / Per Peterson

Restaurants once again forced to absorb losses because of COVID-19

By Per Peterson

The beer was flowing at local establishments last Friday night, but it wasn’t necessarily party time.

Area bars and restaurants from Revere to Lake Shetek were selling beer cheap that night in an effort to empty their kegs on what was their last day of business thanks to Gov. Tim Walz’s decision last Wednesday to implement a four-week “dial back” in reaction to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Minnesota. The drastic move comes on the heels of a mandated 10 p.m. curfew on bars and restaurants in Minnesota.

“It’s frustrating,” said Amy Wendinger, co-owner at Key Largo. “First, (the governor) gave us the 10 p.m. closing time — it wasn’t even a week that we could try that out. Within a week, he completely shut us down.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time the state’s bars and restaurants have had to drastically change gears in light of the pandemic. Shortly after COVID-19 shut down schools and salons in March, a stay-at-home order was put into place, meaning restaurants all over the state were relegated to curb-side, or take-out dining. Now, it’s deja-vu all over again, at least until Dec. 18.

The new “dial back” essentially pauses all indoor and outdoor dining, not to mention the closure of gyms, fitness studios, dance studios, theaters and bowling alleys. Outside-the-home social gatherings were also paused, as were all organized youth and adult sports.

“This is our livelihood,” said Diane Fiegen, owner of The Caboose, which this year celebrated its 10-year anniversary. “I don’t want to shut the doors. I want this to stay here for Tracy.”

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.