Minneapolis inspectors began scoping out restaurants and bars Tuesday afternoon to ensure they are complying with new bans on on-site service, part of an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, other inspections and a wide range of services have been scaled back as the city aims to protect the health of its workers.
Mayor Jacob Frey ordered bars, restaurants and coffee shops in the city to close or offer only takeout, delivery or drive-through service starting at noon Tuesday. Gov. Tim Walz followed with a larger, statewide restriction that begins at 5 p.m.
Minneapolis spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said inspectors would “perform citywide visual inspection sweeps” to check whether businesses are complying with the new rules. If they find evidence that the businesses are offering services other than takeout or delivery, the inspectors will call the business owners or managers to tell them about the violations. The businesses will have one hour to correct the problem or face a citation.
The interactions are meant to be “contactless,” McKenzie said, to limit health risks for the inspectors.
The changes come after the city and state declared emergencies following the spread of coronavirus.
Minneapolis is encouraging local restaurant and bar owners who have questions about the new rules to call 612-673-2847 or email SmallBusiness@minneapolismn.gov.
The city also has temporarily halted water shut-offs due to a lack of payment and stopped issuing permits for events with 50 or more people.
City Council members have been receiving updates on Minneapolis’ COVID-19 response efforts at many of their committee meetings.
At a meeting Tuesday morning, Department of Public Works Director Robin Hutcheson told council members that her department “remains at full staff” and has several contingency plans in place, should they need them.
“I am also here to reassure you that, should the day come when we need to adjust our operation to a point of having any fewer staff than we have today, that we are in a state of readiness,” Hutcheson said.
Employees who can are working remotely, she said. Others are staggering their start times to limit contact with others. They also received directions about how to keep their distances from other people and properly clean their vehicles.
In an emergency, the department’s top priorities will be maintaining safe drinking water, continuing waste removal, ensuring that traffic systems are working and repairing first-responders’ vehicles, if needed, she said.
Other city departments are making similar changes in an effort to protect their workers’ health.
The Regulatory Services division, which oversees rental licensing, sent an e-mail to property owners saying it will temporarily stop “nonessential internal inspections.” Essential inspections are “those that are needed for life, safety and health situations,” such as food safety and lead poisoning inspections.
The city will contact owners who had nonessential inspections scheduled to postpone.
The city also asked landlords to consider holding off on evictions. It is also limiting access to a Minneapolis Development Review counter, which offers help with permits and licensing. People can still drop off forms in person, get assistance by calling 311, or send forms to a secure fax line at 612-673-3699.
Minneapolis Animal Care & Control is now requiring appointments at its shelter service counter rather than offering walk-in service. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 612-673-6222.
Also on Tuesday, Frey signed an emergency regulation, allowing the city to speed up its contracting and purchasing processes for items related to the COVID-19 response. The city’s Finance and Property Services department will oversee that process and must consult with the Department of Civil Rights on purchases worth more than $50,000. Emergency buys must be reported to the mayor and City Council.