Evergreen Coffee sits empty following Gov. Walz's executive order closing all dine-in options for restaurants across the state. 

Gov. Tim Walz announced March 25 a "stay at home" order for Minnesotans, which will be effective Friday, March 27 at 11:59 p.m. to at least at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 10.

Minnesotans are asked to only leave their residences for activities such as medical appointments or to obtain medical supplies, outdoor activities, obtaining necessary supplies such as gasoline and groceries, and obtaining carry-out from restaurants. Travel is allowed for those returning to a home from outside the state, for the caring of others, and for relocation if being at home is unsafe. Walz said all should still be done while practicing social distancing, or maintaining at least a six-foot space between people.

"This does not mean don’t step out of your house, but it does mean we’re getting more restrictive," Walz said in a live video announcement.

Workers who provide critical services are exempt including healthcare and public health, law enforcement, public safety, first responders, child care, emergency shelters, homeless shelters, food, agriculture, news media, energy, water, wastewater and critical manufacturing. Walz said that estimates are nearly 78% of all workers in Minnesota are deemed “essential.” 

Walz indicated that more help is coming for small businesses, but especially for contract workers, as well. The order extended the closure of all dine-in options for area restaurants, bars, or coffee shops until at least May 1.

"I know how painful this is," Walz said.

Keegan and Alyssa Hofeld, who own Evergreen Coffee in Wyoming, said it's been difficult to close their shop for just drive-through options only. 

"There's really nothing anyone can do to be prepared for something like this. ... It's a hard situation. They're doing everything they can to balance health and economics, but it's a bad day for business," Keegan said. 

What they miss most, however, is their customers and the energy they bring.

"For us, creating this home atmosphere and this environment that brings people in to rest is a huge part of our business, so it's been excruciating to see the emptiness...It still feels like it's dead, even though it's not dead," Keegan added.

The duo did say that they have seen an outpouring of support from the community, with hundreds of dollars in just one week of "pay it forward" purchases and an increase in tips.

For Kellee Nightengale, owner of Mainstream Boutique in Forest Lake, her decision had already been made, as she decided to close her doors at her new location on Lake Street on Friday, March 20. It was a decision she called “scary and heartbreaking.” 

“I had to lay off four employees, and that was uncomfortable for me,” Nightengale said. For now, Nightengale is promoting her business with live videos and social media posts, and through online sales, but she said the reaction from customers has been slow.

One clarification Walz made during a 3 p.m. media briefing with the Minnesota Department of Health is that liquor stores will remain open. 

Beth Whittaker, owner of Liquor Works in Forest Lake, said that she’s seeing a huge uptick in purchases.

“I’ve been ordering extra and having more employees work because it is busy. Very busy; It’s like Fourth of July busy” Whittaker said.

The Governor took time to explain the data and models University of Minnesota researches had been working on for over two weeks. Walz said his decision to order a shelter in place isn't to help decrease the number of infected, but instead is to spread out over time the number of those needing intensive care, so that resources continue to be available for those who need care.

"We’re in this together. I’m asking you to buckle it up for a few more weeks here and asking manufacturers to step it up and provide for ICU units. We’ll draw on all our resources that we have and get through this together," Walz said. 

The announcement also included an extension for distance learning for all k-12 public schools through May 4.

Minnesota is not closing its borders, nor will there be a martial law to enforce the order, but will be enforced by local law enforcement. 

Walz said that the length of the order could be extended.

"We're all just kind of doing what we can, doing the best we can to protect the community and do the best we can to keep ourselves running," Keegan said.

Hannah Davis is the Area Editor at the Forest Lake Times. You can contact her at hannah.davis@ecm-inc.com or (763)233-0709

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