Cloquet bars 'get creative' with reopening
Bars and restaurants expand outdoor seating capacity as customers return for the first time in two months because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Less than half an hour after opening for the first time in more than two months, The Jack’s expanded patio had more than 40 people spread out over it.
The crowd grew enough in the first 30 minutes that owner Adam Bailey was already thinking about what to say to people when he turned them away.
The Jack’s capacity on the patio was 50 people, about 25 percent of what it normally is, but he was happy to have customers at all after the COVID-19 pandemic kept him closed for most of the last three months.
Gov. Tim Walz ordered bars and restaurants closed to dine-in service March 17 and with food sales not enough to continue operating, Bailey kept The Jack closed during that time.
Bailey used soft orange fencing to expand the patio and add capacity, since customers couldn’t be inside the bar.
Stewart Kelly of Cloquet, a regular at The Jack, said he wanted to support Bailey’s effort to reopen and get some air after months of being stuck at home.
“I’m trying to support local business,” Kelly said. “It’s my day off, so here I am.”
Over at Carmen’s on Big Lake Road, owners Ryan Lindstrom and Zach Zezulka erected a tent behind the restaurant to allow more customers and a different atmosphere for families. Several patrons also ate on the deck.
Lindstrom said their catering license allowed them to serve food and alcohol in the tent, giving families a place to go if they were looking for a different setting than the deck attached to the restaurant.
“The governor said ‘get creative’ so we got creative,” Lindstrom said.
Lindstrom said in addition to their standard cleaning protocols, he and Zezulka also paid for a company to perform a 90-day disinfectant over the entire property to help ensure everything was ready for customers to return. The Carmen’s owners plan to continue the practice to ensure safety of their customers.
Everyone at both places said they felt the owners and employees were doing a very good job keeping things clean and making them feel safe.
Kelly said he had gone to Wisconsin recently and was impressed with the way The Jack patio was set up compared to its counterparts across the border.
“There’s no such thing as social distancing over there,” Kelly said. “I feel safer over here.”