A special meeting of the Waconia City Council is scheduled for 6 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, May 27, following Gov. Tim Walz’s directives last Wednesday for a phased re-opening of the state amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The patchwork order has cities, restaurants, bar owners and hair salon operators frustrated and struggling with how to move ahead to resume business and services June 1, yet still comply with limitations outlined in the orders.
Most cities like Waconia have ordinances related to bars, restaurants and other businesses, notes Waconia City Administrator Susan Arntz. That includes provisions for things like outdoor seating and services. So, ultimately it falls to local entities and individual businesses on how to implement and comply with state directives.
That’s what Wednesday’s meeting is all about. The city council will review temporary rules for outdoor seating at bars as and restaurants as part of the agenda.
City staff has created temporary modifications to various ordinances the city has regarding use of outdoor space that would take effect on Monday, June 1. Among them that businesses would be able to use a portion of private parking lots, a portion of shared parking lots, sidewalks, municipal parking lots, and/or city streets to provide outdoor seating and service.
Details and accommodations around those provisions are outlined in a resolution the council will deliberate at the special meeting. The meeting is expected to be held back in council chambers at city hall in a socially distant manner following several weeks of online city council meetings during the height of Minnesota stay at home orders.
City leaders indicate they have been getting lots of questions around the latest state directives. They also have been feeling pressure from a faction of community members pushing the city to re-open more quickly than the governor’s and state health leaders’ slow, cautious phased approach.
That was a topic of discussion at last Monday’s city council work session May 18, with Waconia’s legal counsel noting that the city is a political subdivision of the state, so it doesn’t have the authority to override a state executive order, and there could be consequences for the city and businesses should it defy the state.
While it reacts to the governor’s directive implementing the next phase of his plan to reopen restaurants and bars, at city hall, personnel have taken steps to equip the help/service desk with plexiglass screens, similar to what are in many grocery/hardware stores, to prepare for the reopening of that facility, although it remains closed for now.
With summer coming and many entertainment venues shuttered and events cancelled, the city also is exploring how it might provide some local entertainment through its music and movies in the park series.
Then there’s the third phase of reopening down the road, which would include gyms and fitness centers like Safari Island. No dates or directives set yet.