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North Shore restaurants feeling impact of new COVID restrictions

On Nov. 18, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced four weeks of new COVID-19 restrictions. The announcement came as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases topped 200,000. The governor pointed to the fact that it took Minnesota more than six months to record 100,000 COVID-19 cases, but only 42 days to add an additional 100,000 new cases in November.

Sadly, that means pausing school sports, closing fitness centers and shutting down bars and restaurants for in-person dining until at least Friday, Dec. 18, with the possibility that the restrictions could be extended.

This could be devastating for our local restaurant businesses, something recognized by the Cook County Chamber, which sent a letter to Gov. Walz and the Legislature, pleading for financial assistance from St. Paul. Chamber Director Jim Boyd reminded the governor and legislators that Cook County had been quite diligent and managed to hold COVID-19 at bay for a long time. Boyd said the county recognizes the need to continue those efforts, but also stressed that Cook County’s economy is heavily dependent on the tourism industry.

Boyd noted that it is unknown when – and if – federal pandemic relief will be coming. He said there is a need for “quick, substantial ‘gap’ assistance” from the state. He urged the govenment leaders to act on the bipartisan consensus that seemed to be near for an aid package for these vulnerable businesses.

In the meantime, local restaurant owners are in limbo and very concerned. Many businesses are closed completely at this time. For those that are open, it is a challenge.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with staff from two local restaurants, the Gunflint Tavern and Moguls Grille and Tap Room, to learn how they are navigating these challenging times for the restaurant industry. WTIP spoke with Sine Permpulsirikul of Moguls Grille and Tap Room in Lutsen and Carol Thomas of the Gunflint Tavern.

Below is the full report and audio from those conversations.