by Dennis Dalman
A certain amount of downtown vitality might soon return to St. Joseph starting Monday, June 1, when some bars and restaurants will start offering outdoor service.
Business owners and managers plans to open their services ranged from no to probably not, from maybe to definitely yes.
Gov. Tim Walz announced that the state’s restaurants and bars could offer outdoor dining options starting June 1, with safety rules and regulations, including no more than 50 customers at one time and with a strict provision for social distancing at the outdoor tables, meaning each must be 6 feet away from another.
The following establishments responded to questions about reopening.
15 Minnesota Street E.
“We’re ready to go,” said owner Jason Mueller. “We have a big outdoor patio, and we can also use the front sidewalk because the city (council) gave permission to do that.”
Ever since the virus crisis began, Bello Cucina, like many other restaurants in the area and elsewhere, offered take-out orders and curbside pick-up service. It was a way to hang in there by the skin of their teeth and pay some bills until other “safe” solutions were found.
“We already have had safe practices,” said Mueller. “Hand sanitizer, hand washing stations. Masks will be optional, but staff are not required to wear them. The cook staff are not allowed to wear them because of liability issues if the masks catch fire or if they interfere with vision and somebody falls.”
The only provision Bello Cucina doesn’t have yet but soon will are sidewalk/patio stickers to remind diners to keep 6 feet from one another.
The virus crises, Mueller noted, has been very tough on restaurants, adding that he wishes the state could delay payment of property taxes for more months.
“Those (taxes) are a big chunk of change,” he said.
211 CR 75 W.
There won’t be any noticeable changes at Taco John’s come June 1, said Michole Tobler, assistant manager.
“The lobby will still be open for ordering, but there will still be no inside dining, of course,” she said. “We’ve always had drive-thru service and lobby ordering. And we do have only one picnic table outside.”
Tobler said it is so eerie when the streets and highway past St. Joseph are so quiet and empty of traffic at certain times of day or night.
“This (governor’s) plan is all so new,” she said. “Maybe, once the plans are better understood, there might be ways to do have more outdoor dining.”
Masks are not required at Taco John’s.
“It’s very hard to do work with them on, especially when it’s hot,” Tobler said.
217 CR 75 NW
Subway, as now and before, has always had ordering in the lobby, and that will continue. But, other than that, there will be no changes, no outdoor dining options.
19 College Ave.
Bo Diddley’s Pub and Deli will put picnic-type tables outside the business for outdoor dining, with safe spacing defined table to table.
109 Minnesota St.
“Well, we might do it,” said long-time owner Dale Schneider. “We might put more tables and chairs outside. But we still haven’t decided if it will be worth it.”
In the past few months, Sal’s has always been open for food take-out and curb-side pickup. If food is offered for outside dining, with social distancing, alcohol refreshments could also be served – outside.
Schneider said bars and residents have taken a big hit since the virus crisis began, and he is worried that many might not make it through the crunch.
“This bar has been here for 73 years,” he said. “My dad had it for 25 years, and I’ve owned and operated it with son Kyle for 48 years.”
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.