Kollege Klub and Sally’s Saloon report highest COVID-19 case numbers in Minneapolis

Though COVID-19 precautions are in place, the restaurants continued to report cases in September as University students returned.

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Emily Urfer

The Kollege Klub, a popular bar in Dinkytown, on Saturday, June 20.

Lydia Morrell

Two University of Minnesota-area restaurants have been among the top hotspots for COVID-19 throughout the state.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has reported 103 restaurants that have been investigated for suspected patron transmission of COVID-19 statewide since restaurants were allowed to reopen in June. Fifty-five met the outbreak threshold, according to information released to the public on Oct. 9.

Minneapolis has 14 establishments that meet this criteria, including Kollege Klub and Sally’s Saloon at the top of the list.

The Kollege Klub in Dinkytown had a total of 90 cases this summer, with 21 cases reported in September alone. Sally’s in Stadium Village trails closely behind with 83 total reported cases, 34 of which were also reported in September.

Both Sally’s and Kollege Klub declined to comment regarding their response to the pandemic.

MDH notes that because locations rely on self-reporting and some people may be reluctant to share information about their attendance at social events, some outbreaks could be underreported.

Hayden Cecil, a student who went to Sally’s this semester, said she felt safe while in the restaurant because of its COVID-19 precautions but was unsettled by the behavior of other patrons.

“I wear my mask when I walk around,” Cecil said. “But it’s like, sometimes when I see other people walking around without a mask, it just gives me an uneasy feeling.”

She added that social distancing is difficult when patrons are walking between tables, sometimes unmasked, or standing in line waiting to be admitted to Sally’s.

“We’re supposed to stand on X’s. But with groups, it’s kind of hard,” Cecil said. “It just becomes one big line instead of like groups being separated in the line.”

John, a fourth-year student standing in line for Sally’s Thursday night who didn’t want to share his last name, said that even though he knows going out to Sally’s poses a risk to the community, he felt more comfortable because he does not live with anybody vulnerable to the virus.

“I’m not going to say it feels like the most safe thing and it feels kind of like a little bit morally unjust, but at the same time … [I’m] just trying to do something,” John said.

John said he thought that Sally’s previous problems with COVID-19 were because of the students who socialized with other tables and did not wear masks. However, he said staff handled the issue well, especially compared to bars in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. He added that the bar’s staff has tightened enforcement regarding unmasked students wandering around.

“I’ve seen people kind of get kicked out if they go to a different table,” John said. “We saw someone walk in without a mask on, and the bouncer was really strict with them.”

Loring Bar & Restaurant in Dinkytown, which has seen zero COVID-19 cases, has faced similar challenges with patrons not complying with rules. The restaurant has social distance markers for lines, two doors for separate exit and entry and requires face masks when patrons are not eating or drinking.

“I’ve had to let staff know that ‘Hey, I know this is uncomfortable, but you do need to go tell this person to put on their mask’ or, you know, ‘Tell this person to step back from someone,’ just reminding them of those rules,” Loring operations manager Jake Bruce said. “Because I mean, we’re all human, we’re all going to forget, and especially in a comfortable social setting, you’re not going to want to do that.”

He added that the biggest challenge right now is patrons, especially young people, who are not concerned about the pandemic and do not pay attention to the rules.

“But that’s our job,” Bruce said. “And it’s on us to keep everyone safe and healthy.”