Walz orders Minnesota restaurants, bars to close to diners at 5 p.m. Tuesday

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WKBT) – All Minnesota restaurants and bars will be closed to the public at 5 p.m. Tuesday — a day that traditionally features St. Patrick’s Day revelry — under an executive order Gov. Tim Walz issued Monday.

“We’re seeing people still congregate in large numbers. We need to stop congregating,” said Walz, who issued another executive order allowing unemployment compensation for workers who lose their jobs during the closures because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Restaurants still will be able to offer curbside pickup and home delivery under the order, which lasts until 5 p.m. March 27, although Walz said he expects that to be extended.

The wide range of gathering spots ordered closed includes businesses such as movie theaters, fitness clubs, gyms, cafes, bowling alleys, bingo halls and country clubs, among others.

The order does not affect grocery stores and pharmacies, which Walz ordered to remain open as “critical infrastructure … to make sure that people are able to get what they need.”

The order regarding unemployment compensation aims to “ensure that workers who are not able to work as a result of COVID-19 have benefits available,” according to a statement from the governor’s office. “Specifically, this Executive Order will waive the employer surcharge and allow the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to pay unemployment benefits immediately, providing fast relief to employees who need it.”

The governor’s office said people should go to the state’s unemployment insurance website rather than overwhelming the office’s phone lines.