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Mask or no mask: Dinkytown restaurants discuss end of mask mandate

Minneapolis lifted the mask mandate on June 1, leaving many businesses feeling both elated and nervous.
Image by Alexa Lewis
As summer heats up, many head inside to enjoy Dinkytown eating establishments on Sunday, June 13.

After Minneapolis lifted the mask mandate for both indoors and outdoors in early June, Dinkytown restaurants are reacting with a mix of emotions.

Although businesses can still require customers to wear masks, as they are a private entity, the majority of Dinkytown restaurants have completely dropped them. Employees are both excited to enter back into the maskless world and afraid of what may come.

Currently, no one is required to wear a face mask in public. Minnesota lifted the mask mandate and indoor dining restrictions due to high vaccine rates among adults and low COVID-19 infection rates. Shortly afterwards, Minneapolis rescinded mask requirements as well.

Several restaurants have kept their dining rooms roped off, despite the lifted restrictions. Camdi, Bánh Appetit and JJ’s Poké Bowl currently offer takeout only and do not plan to change that in the near future. Mesa Pizza keeps their table numbers limited and does not allow dine-in on evenings and weekends.

Bánh Appetit owner Sherman Ho said he was waiting for school to start up in the fall to reopen fully. “I want to give it more time,” he said, including that he would like to see better vaccination rates before putting tables out.

Gray’s, previously known as Loring Bar and Restaurant, started hosting salsa dancing every weekend.

“It’s a respectful crowd and I’ve had no issues with salsa dancing,” said Lynn Nyman, owner and chief manager of Gray’s.

Nyman said that she is not sure if there has been an increase in customers since the end of the mask mandate.

“It coincided with school being out, there’s been intense heat and salsa is bringing in more people,” she said.

Walking into Bánh Appetit, the restaurant had a plastic barrier separating the cashier from customers, but most employees were maskless. They appeared at ease and comfortable working around each other.

Ho said that it is optional for employees to wear masks, and most do not because they are fully vaccinated. Several employees across Dinkytown held the same sentiment that being vaccinated made them feel safe enough to be maskless.

Not everyone feels that way. Monster Williams, the general manager at Mesa Pizza, said that he does not feel safe serving people without masks.

“I’d feel safe if we reached herd immunity, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet,” he said.

It was clear that sentiment stretched across Dinkytown. In multiple restaurants that dropped their mask mandate, employees still took orders, made food and talked to customers fully masked.

Customers as well seem hesitant to drop the mask. Williams said that despite no mask requirements, about 50% of customers still come in masked.

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