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Area restaurants adjust to hospitality business restrictions

By Sue Sitter - | Nov 21, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT Stacey Schmaltz of the Coffee Cottage in Rugby works on a lunch order. Schmaltz said the restaurant asks customers to wear masks.

North Dakota State Health Officer Dirk Wilkie has issued an order requiring masks to be worn in indoor businesses and public settings, according to an announcement by Gov. Doug Burgum Friday, Nov. 13.

Burgum announced the order as one of several measures taken in North Dakota to slow the spread of COVID-19 and ease patient numbers in North Dakota hospitals, many of which are at capacity.

The order exempts certain populations, such as persons with medical and mental health disabilities and children under age five from the requirement.

Other measures announced by Burgum include limiting restaurant and bar seating capacity to 50 percent of normal and prohibiting in-person service between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. Curbside, takeout and delivery food service will still be allowed during those hours.

Area restaurants have answered the restrictions in different ways.

Rugby’s Dakota Farms has a sign on their front door advising customers to place takeout orders from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for daily specials or cook-at-home meals such as lasagna in aluminum trays.

Other restaurant and bars such as 3rd Street Station are also offering take-out family meals. The bar is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Area restaurant owners say they wear masks and ask their customers to wear them as well.

Stacey Schmaltz of Rugby’s Coffee Cottage said the restaurant, which had closed in April due to restrictions on bars and restaurants, would stay open this time.

“We’re hoping we don’t close,” she said. “It just depends on how the restrictions keep coming.”

Schmaltz said the Coffee Cottage, which had limited the number of dine-in customers to 25 percent of the restaurant’s capacity due to Pierce County’s high number of COVID cases, changed the number to 50 percent when Burgum updated restrictions Nov. 13 to include mask mandates.

“Half of my customers today had no masks,” Schmaltz said in a disappointed tone. “I’m not the mask police. So, what do you do?”

“They walk in, sit down, and take their masks right off. It’s a tough call,” she added.

Bonnie Berginski of Rockin Relics Cafe reported more mask-wearing compliance among her customers.

“Everybody’s been pretty good about wearing a mask in here,” Berginski said. “We haven’t had a problem with it, really. If we’ve asked customers to wear a mask, they comply. It just hasn’t been a problem.”

“Today,” Berginski added, “A couple came in without a mask and they bought a couple of masks from us, then they sat down.”

“I don’t have a problem with (restrictions),” Berginski added, noting customer numbers were already at about 50 percent “if we even have that.”

“I’ve removed tables (for social distancing) and all that,” Berginski added. “But really, we haven’t had anywhere close to 50 percent capacity at a time here all week.”

“We put the sign on the door (advising customers of the mask mandate) like the city asked us to,” Berginski added.

Berginski said she has installed an ionizing air purifier in Rockin Relics. “It has a pure fresh air smell and it’s really made a difference.”

“I want to do anything I can to keep from getting it,” Berginski added.

Other measures taken by Burgum include suspending high school winter sports until Dec. 14. The measures would allow fall sport playoffs to continue through November. Burgum’s statement said college sports would “follow guidance from the North Dakota University System and their respective national organizations.”

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