Hills, MN restaurant reacts to new COVID-19 dining restrictions

Local News

HILLS, Minn. (KELO) — Minnesota Governor Tim Walz is lifting some outdoor dining restrictions that have been in place at restaurants and bars in the state. But indoor dining is still off the table.

Minnesota’s current set of COVID-19 related business restrictions were set to expire on Friday. Governor Walz’s extension now allows outdoor seating, but limited to half-capacity, with a maximum of 100 customers. Eating inside won’t be allowed until January 11, at the earliest. And that comes as a disappointment, but not a surprise, to one cafe in Hills, Minnesota.

Mark Nelson is picking up lunch at the Hidden Hills Cafe & Hideaway Tavern in Hills, MN.

“I got a burger and fries and chicken cordon bleu and fries,” Nelson said.

Like other restaurants across Minnesota, the Hidden Hills Cafe has been serving carry-out only. And now the business won’t be able to seat customers inside until after the New Year.

“Part of it is I know why, but the other deal is, we live in rural Minnesota where there hasn’t been a lot of stuff going on, so it’s really hard on small businesses to maintain this,” Hidden Hills Cafe cook Matt Wiersma said.

Wiersma says opening-up patio seating isn’t practical during a Minnesota winter.

“Outdoor dining in Minnesota in December is not really a big thing when it’s 40-degrees, 20-degrees or lower. You never know what’s going to happen, weather-wise,” Wiersma said.

The Hidden Hills Cafe is the closest dining option for many customers in southwest Minnesota. That’s why they say it’s important that the business stays open during the pandemic.

“We don’t have to go into Sioux Falls to get lunch or supper. All local, my family, and it’s just nice to have a place to run in and get lunch like I’m doing today,” Nelson said.

The cafe is grateful for the regulars who’ve been ordering food during the pandemic. Eating local is a big deal in a small town.

Wiersma estimates the pandemic and the restrictions that came with it cut business by more than half. Governor Walz acknowledged Wednesday that opening-up outdoor dining is not a solution, but provides an option for some businesses.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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