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Minot Air Force Base’s policies restrict personnel from bars, dine-in

Military policy bans bars, dine-in for personnel

Jill Schramm/MDN Restaurants line South Broadway in Minot Monday. To continue catering to military members under Minot Air Force Base’s COVID-19 policies, restaurants need to be ready to serve up food to go.

Minot bars, supper clubs and other dine-in restaurants could feel the squeeze from tighter pandemic restrictions at Minot Air Force Base.

The base recently released a directive for military personnel that includes a prohibition on visiting bars and off-base restaurants for other than take-out.

Alejandro Lopez, assistant manager at Mi Mexico, said the policy will be a blow for the restaurant and cantina, but he can’t fault the Air Force for its action.

“The base chooses that to be safe, and safety is very important for us, too,” he said. “To keep our customers safe is important for us.”

MAFB went to Bravo+ due to heightened exposure risk to COVID-19. Military personnel are required to wear masks in on-base facilities unless at home or alone in an enclosed office, according to the directive. All travel outside of 100 miles requires commander approval, and there is a seven-day restriction of movement upon return.

Approved locations that don’t require advance approval for travel are Lake Sakakawea/Lake Audubon, Lake Metigoshe/Turtle Mountains, Theodore Roosevelt National Park/Medora and Devils Lake.

Indoor gatherings are authorized up to 50% of the fire code, not to exceed 100 people. Outdoor gatherings may be up to 100 people with masks required when social distancing cannot be maintained.

Department of Defense civilians, contractors and dependents are encouraged to adhere to the same policies.

John MacMartin, Minot Area Chamber of Commerce president, said the restrictions could negatively affect sales for bars and many restaurants that already had been hurt by previous governor orders to close and then re-open at reduced capacity. However, he said, the Air Force must consider its ability to continue its mission. That requires taking measures to keep the virus from spreading among personnel.

“I am extraordinarily sure this was not a decision made in a vacuum but has also been monitored and done in conjunction with Global Strike Command to try to keep the airmen away from places where the chance of being exposed is higher,” he said.

MacMartin added area restaurants generally provide take-out service. Restaurants that didn’t have take-out as part of their regular business model before the pandemic developed a take-out service, sometimes with curbside pickup.

Take-out customers tend to purchase less, often skipping appetizers, desserts or drinks, according to a manager at Badlands Restaurant and Bar, which expects to feel the impact of the military change.

“I am hoping if we lose them as dine-in, we maybe gain them as to-go. So maybe we won’t lose them necessarily, but just remap them into a different area of our sales,” the manager said.

“We always want to see the bright, smiling faces of members and the public, of course, so we obviously want to see everybody come through the doors,” said Ray Cook, manager at Vardon Bar and Grill. The restaurant temporarily had gone to 100% takeout earlier in the pandemic, though, and continues to offer that service.

“It’s a big change for the store, but we need to figure it out,” Lopez said of Mi Mexico. The restaurant has been impacted already in staffing because military members who had worked part-time are no longer available.

“That hurts us because we need employees,” Lopez said.

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