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Restaurant & Bar Guidance for the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Highlights:

Restaurant Reopening Toolkit   Fee-Free Permit Application    FAQ    Ask SWBA

SWBA has successfully lobbied with other business organizations to bring you a fee-free expansion option. There will be no permit or SAC fees for applying for additional outdoor seating unless you are looking to use street space or want to utilize a single canopy that is larger than 400 Sq Ft.

  • The City and State have worked together to create a comprehensive reopening toolkit specifically for restaurants and bars. You can access this at the link above.
  • Expand your outdoor space quickly and fee free with the modified Temporary Expansion Permit (do your best on the seating plan, don't get hung up making it perfect!)
  • SWBA has attended training on the details for restaurants and bars to reopen. If you have a question that isn't answered here, please reach out and we'll help.

What's Allowed?

  • You must have a preparedness plan in place with staff trained on the plan.
  • New or expanded outdoor seating will have hours limited to Su-Th 8 AM to 10 PM and F-Sa 8 AM to 11 PM (you may choose to operate fewer hours within these parameters)
  • You are limited to a maximum of 50 diners in your outdoor space, and parties can be no larger than 4 (up to 6 if it is for an immediate family)
  • You must have 6 feet from table to table in your outdoor seating space
  • You may put up a canopy (no more than 2 side panels) to cover from sun and protect from elements. Under 400 sq ft and no additional permit is required.
  • Reservations are required to limit the amount of people waiting near the business. 

Adding or Expanding Outdoor Seating:

Businesses looking to add or expand outdoor seating can do so in just a few simple steps:

  1. Get any permissions needed in writing from landlords/neighboring businesses to use outdoor space on their properties.
  2. Notify your council member, the SWBA, and your local neighborhood association about your intended plans, and include the notice that any complaints that may result should be directed to 311.
  3. Fill out the application and submit it. As soon as you have submitted the application you are granted conditional permission and may begin implementing the plan and setting up your spaces.

If you intend to use the roadway for your additional seating, please note that there will be a short delay in approval (the city is anticipating under 5 days), and a small fee may be required due to road markings/access changes needed.

Webinars on outdoor dining guidelines

Restaurant owners, managers and staff are invited to join webinars on the new guidelines for outdoor dining from the state. The City of Minneapolis is hosting the webinars to discuss the guidelines and to answer your questions about opening outdoor dining area. Outdoor dining will open in Minneapolis on or after June 1, 2020.

The webinar will be offered in English, Spanish and Somali.

The webinars will cover:

  • Overview of State guidelines & preparedness plans
  • Minneapolis outdoor dining options
  • Employer issues
  • Supports and resources for businesses

Restaurant Opening Guidance for Businesses (Spanish)
May 28, 2020 10:00 a.m.
Register here

Restaurant Opening Guidance for Businesses (Somali)
May 28, 2020 2:00 p.m.
Register here

Restaurant Opening Guidance for Businesses (English)
May 29, 2020 12:00 p.m.
Please note: this session will be offered concurrently with the Mayor’s Office Open Call for Businesses
Register here

If you have questions about the new guidance, submit your questions before the webinar.

Apply for a temporary outdoor dining license

If you would like to expand your outdoor dining area during the COVID-19 pandemic, apply for a
Temporary Expansion of Premise for Outdoor Dining License. There is no fee for this license, but there are some requirements. Business Licensing is expediting the application process for this license as much as possible.

The application is on the Business Licensing website and on the coronavirus FAQ for Businesses web page. An email about the application will be sent to all food and alcohol licensees.

For more information, please contact your Business Licensing area inspector or call Business Licensing at 612-673-2080.

COVID-19 Restaurant and Bar Preparedness Plan Guidance

On June 1, 2020, Minneapolis Bars and Restaurants will be allowed to open outdoor dining service with restrictions.  Before opening, businesses are required to have a COVID-19 preparedness plan in place. Your plan needs to incorporate feedback from staff. Staff needs to be properly trained on the plan.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has developed a template with instructions and guidance.

This guidance highlights items that must be in your preparedness plan. The topics below must be included in your preparedness plan: Health screening; Masks; Cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting; Spacing and capacity; and Physical facilities. The Health Department created signs you may want to use. 

Health screening

You must screen employees when they arrive or capture the self-reporting of your employee’s health. You may want to consider screening guests as well.


  • Review the CDC guidance on employee health screening for COVID-19.
  • Minnesota Department of Health created a helpful checklist.
  • Create a log to track the required information. Here is an employee health screening log example.
  • Ask guests health screening questions when they arrive, or digitally in a text, or by email the day of their reservation.
  • Post City of Minneapolis signs of health reminders to set guest expectations and remind them they are a partner in safe dining.

Other Employee Considerations

Be mindful of the Sick and Safe Time ordinance, and ensure your employees understand its terms and applicability during the Covid pandemic.

Your employees must be trained on implementation of your Covid Preparedness Plan. Be sure you've accomplished this before opening for service.


What is required?

Customers who are waiting for a table, are not yet eating or drinking, or are entering to use the bathroom facilities or place an order must wear a mask. You as the business owner are not expected to enforce the policy although you are allowed to.

Customer facing workers, and any workers who cannot maintain a 6 foot distance from each other are required to wear masks. The City does have the ability to issue citations and fines, up to and including closure of a business if they are found to be in violation of the rule. (Enforced by licensing department)

Visit the City's information about masks to learn:

  • Minneapolis requirements on the use of masks in public.
  • Who is exempt from wearing a mask in public.

Suggestions on how to make this work

  • Offer masks for sale to guests.
  • Post signs with city mask requirement language and city logo to reinforce the Mayor’s proclamation and help address guest complaints.
  • Increase frequency of breaks for employees, especially those working in hot environments.

Cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting

Your COVID-19 preparedness plan needs to address sanitation and disinfection procedures. Make sure to your employees are trained on your updated procedures and on the use of personal protection equipment (PPE).

Suggestions on creating your procedures

  • Evaluate the CDC decision guide for a quick guide on how to clean different surface types.
  • Review the CDC detailed instructions on what and how to properly clean, sanitize and disinfect your facility. Use the EPA approved list of disinfectants to ensure you have the right chemical.
  • Identify high touch surfaces that need frequent disinfection. Some of the surfaces are: guest facing door handles, equipment door handles, phones, pens, check presenters, POS systems, trays, beverage stations, shared multi-use utensils and equipment, bathroom surfaces, etc.

Ways to minimize touching surfaces

  • Provide single use condiment packets or portioned amounts in ramekins. If you use multi-use condiments, disinfected the containers between each use.
  • Do not preset tables. Deliver utensils, napkins, menus, condiments and other items to guests.
  • Use single use menus, menu boards or online menus instead of reusable menus. If you use reusable menus, make sure they are disinfected between each use.
  • Use gloves when handling takeout containers, utensils and dishes.
  • Have guests package their own leftovers. If an employee packages leftover, make sure they follow proper hand hygiene and glove use procedures.
  • Provide hand sanitizers in high traffic areas such as near the host stand, lobby and bathroom.
  • Install hands free door opener in the bathroom or provide a trash can near the bathroom door to encourage the use of paper towels to open the door.

Spacing and capacity

What is required?

  • Outdoor seating is allowed if tables are at least 6 feet apart and there are not more than 50 guests.
  • Party size is limited to four people or six people if they are a single-family household.
  • Reservations are required.

Suggestions on how to make this work

  • Cross train employees on different tasks.
  • Dedicate specific staff for cleaning and busing tables.
  • Arrange labor tasks to decrease interactions between staff members and guest sections.
  • Stagger shift start times.
  • Identify tasks that can be done when the business is closed or at off-peak hours.
  • Provide a physical barrier, such as plexiglass, at checkout registers.
  • Identify ways to prevent employees from congregating. For example, communicate pre-shift information by text or email.
  • Consider creating teams of staff members who work together on specific shifts.

Ideas to do more business with fewer tables

  • Encourage desserts to-go
  • Have guests pre-order meals, or offer prix fixe menus, especially for items with longer cook times.
  • Limit menu options.
  • Offer pre-pay or contactless payment options. Explore technology options for ordering and paying in advance.
  • Consider table time limits or the use of an hourglass.

Physical facilities

Suggestions on how to make sure your facility is ready to open

Plumbing and HVAC

  • Run both hot and cold water for 5 minutes at each faucet to flush out water that may be contaminated with harmful bacteria and contaminants.
  • Make sure the plumbing system is in good repair.
  • Check that all utilities are working correctly.
  • Make sure all sanitizer dispensing units and dish machines are properly working.
  • Evaluate the HVAC guidance on restarting and operating your ventilation system from the State of Minnesota.

Pest Management

  • Ensure food hasn’t been contaminated by pests.
  • Look for evidence of pests and manage accordingly.

Discard out of date food

  • Look for signs of mold and other signs of spoilage.
  • Examine frozen food for signs of thawing.


    Stay informed

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    Southwest Business Association is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization. Minnesota , P.O. Box 8932, Minneapolis, MN 55408

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