Tapping out, for now: MN bars, restaurants clear inventory before restrictions take effect

A man pours a beer.
Bartender Justin Feld fills up a glass of beer for a customer Friday at Searles on Fifth Ave. in St. Cloud, Minn. The bar and restaurant offered fish fry and dollar beers until the kegs were emptied before a statewide closure took effect. 
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

Some Minnesota bars and restaurants offered food and drink specials to entice customers one more time on Friday night before a statewide closure took effect. 

By mid-afternoon Friday, a couple dozen people had already gathered at Searles on Fifth Ave. in downtown St. Cloud.

The restaurant and bar offered fish fry and dollar beers until the kegs were emptied.

As happy hour got underway, manager Jennifer Edling said they were trying to avoid having to throw out inventory like they did back in March, after the first state-ordered shutdown.

Searles is known for having 76 beers on tap, which is normally good for business, she said. 

"[B]ut at a time like this, that's a huge detriment,” Edling said. “We're just trying to get through as many of those kegs as we can. People might as well be enjoying what we can get out of them and have a good night."

When Searles posted the special on social media, some questioned whether it was wise to encourage a crowd during a pandemic.

Edling said their two-story building with lots of tables makes it easier for people to social distance than at other places.

Searles owners Darin and Michelle Agnew bought and renovated the historic building just before the pandemic. It was open just 27 days before the first shutdown.

Edling says, after Friday, many of the staff will be laid off. The business will focus on take out and delivery.

"It's hard in that sense too and that, you know, for some of us, are a lot of us, you know, this really is an outlet, and it's just that social interaction, you know, with people in the enjoyment of other people's company, and, and it is all of a sudden have that go away? It's sad. It hurts the heart a little bit."

The restrictions on indoor and outdoor dining took effect at midnight and will last for four weeks. Under the new rules public pools, rec centers, gyms, fitness and dance studios and indoor entertainment venues like theaters and bowling alleys will also be closed. The state is also telling Minnesotans not to gather with anyone outside of their immediate household. 


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