Council approves ordinance to let bars, restaurants, businesses use public outdoor spaces during COVID-19

The Winona City Council has approved an emergency ordinance designed to allow bars, restaurants, and retail and service businesses to temporarily operate in outdoor public spaces adjacent to their business, including sidewalks and parking lanes.

The ordinance was created in response to Minnesota’s StaySafeMN order that allows bars and restaurants to reopen on June 1 for drinking and dining in outdoor spaces, which have found to be much safer in limiting the spread of COVID-19. The ordinance will also allow retail and service businesses, some of which have already been able to open at limited capacity, to operate outdoors. The ordinance language was written in collaboration with the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Program. 

Businesses with a brick-and-mortar location can now place and sell goods or deliver services in outdoor public right-of-ways, including the sidewalk and parking spaces directly adjoining the business, for as wide as their building extends. Businesses seeking to extend into adjacent spaces must get permission from those businesses first. Businesses are also allowed to use any private outdoor spaces adjacent to their business, including parking lots.

Business will be allowed to use these public spaces between the hours of 7 am and 10 pm seven days a week. They will need to pack up, clean up, and move out of public right-of-ways every evening.  Businesses will be allowed to keep bathrooms open for customers with a limit of five inside the building at any time and practicing physical distancing.

Businesses serving alcohol must work with the city to change their liquor license to allow them to serve in outdoor spaces.

All businesses seeking to operate in public right-of-ways must register their plans with the City Clerk’s office, and provide copies of licenses and insurance certificates. Business owners can contact the city clerk, Monica Hennessy Mohan, at 507-457-8200 or [email protected] to register and to ask questions.

Bars and restaurants will continue to be able to serve customers with pickup orders, also allowing up to five customers indoors at a time with physical distancing enforced.

Businesses can also request street closures, including just single lanes, for up to 12 hours a day on two consecutive days each week. Requests must include a written plan and map, and can be submitted to the city manager for expedited consideration.

Businesses must: 

  • Use partitions of some kind (fencing, ropes, cones, etc.) to mark their space
  • Preserve a minimum width of five feet on sidewalks for pedestrians
  • Not extend into the driving lane on streets
  • Not block ramps, fire hydrants, building exits, or other safety and accessibility features
  • Only sell food and beverages if they have licenses to do so; businesses must follow all other state and local codes and regulations
  • Ensure customers only consume alcohol within the partitioned area

To apply, use this form.

Any violations of the ordinance will result in a verbal warning, followed by a request to cease operations in the right-of-way if the violation continues.

Under the current StaySafeMN order, bars and restaurants are able to use any outdoor space their business owns, with tables needing to be at least six feet apart and holding no more than four people (or six as part of a family unit). Reservations are required, and no more than 50 people are allowed to be seated at any one time. Visitors are to wear masks; employees are required to wear masks.

For additional information, businesses are asked to also reach out to the Minnesota Department of Health and to review the state’s COVID-19 information portal, at mn.gov/covid19, for updated advice and guidelines. The Winona Fire Department is providing guidance and walkthroughs for businesses on customer capacity, flow, and layout; contact the department at 507-457-8266.