Apple Valley Chamber
in Sun Thisweek
RE: Letter to the Governor
A Joint Chamber Effort
AV CHAMBER NOTE: In case you missed it, early last week the Apple Valley Chamber, Burnsville Chamber, Hastings Chamber and River Heights Chamber together drafted and sent a strong letter to the Governor and the DEED Commissioner basically saying that businesses are ready to open, ALL should be allowed to open with precautions and that they need more firm dates as to when they can open. The newspaper interviewed AV Chamber President Ed Kearney and Burnsville Chamber President Jennifer Harmening about this letter, which you can see below.

It was interesting to note that just a few days after our letter, the Governor has opened fully to Phase 3 which begins tomorrow. We hope it had some impact.
Chambers ask governor
for more firm timeline
on business reopenings

By Patty Dexter
From left, Apple Valley Chamber of Commerce President Ed Kearney speaks while chamber member Karen Kirkman listens at a chamber luncheon in December 2019. The Apple Valley Chamber, Burnsville Chamber, Hastings Chamber and River Heights Chamber, recently sent a jointly authored letter to Gov. Tim Walz asking for a more firm timeline for the phased reopening of businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Photo courtesy Apple Valley Chamber of Commerce
Joint letter urges reminding customers of personal responsibility

Four Dakota County-based chambers of commerce are asking Gov. Tim Walz for a “prompt turn of the dial from ‘business closure’ to ‘business open’ with personal/consumer responsibility.”

The Apple Valley, Burnsville, Hastings and River Heights chambers (which serves Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul) sent a letter to Walz on May 27 in response to the next phases for reopening businesses he had announced May 20.

“The frustration I hear from businesses isn’t the fact that they were closed,” said Ed Kearney, Apple Valley Chamber president. “Where they’re frustrated is there’s not a timeline. Give them a date. Give them a date so they can make firm plans.”

Opening phases
Walz’s “Stay Safe” order plan includes four phases with the second phase starting June 1. The third and fourth phases do not have specific start and end dates at this time.

The second phase in Walz’s “Stay Safe” order plan included limited outdoor dining at restaurants and bars starting June 1 and that salons and barbershops could reopen on the same date at 25 percent occupancy. In both industries, customers are recommended or required to wear masks, make reservations and adhere to social distancing requirements, according to the governor’s office.

Since March, critical businesses have been allowed to remain open with the option to telework if possible. Non-customer facing businesses could also be open with a COVID-19 preparedness plan and the option to telework.

Retail businesses could only offer curbside pickup until May 18 and were allowed to open at 50 percent capacity with a preparedness plan. They will be able to have increased capacity in the third and fourth phases.

Salons and barbershops were closed and bars and restaurants could only offer delivery and takeout until June 1. Bars and restaurants can include indoor dining in the third phase and increased capacity in the fourth phase. Salons and barbershops can have increased capacity in the third and fourth phases.

Gyms, personal fitness and yoga studios and martial arts are listed for the potential for a phased opening with capacity restrictions in the third phase and increased capacity in the fourth phase.

Entertainment businesses including bowling alleys, movie theaters and arcades are listed for a potential phased opening with capacity restrictions and social distancing requirements in the fourth phase.

Response
The announced phases took many by surprise. There was some expectation that gyms and fitness centers would be allowed to reopen in some capacity sooner, and they were stunned that no indoor service was allowed for restaurants, said Jennifer Harmening, Burnsville Chamber of Commerce president.

“Our phone lines and emails were blowing up that afternoon after the governor’s conference call,” she said. “We are the voice for business in the community. We feel like sometimes the small business voice gets lost. We felt like we needed to say something.”

In the May 27 letter, the chambers said that for the past nine weeks small businesses had been closed for the health and safety of Minnesotans. They created safe reopening plans and found new ways to serve customers.

“Unfortunately, many customer facing businesses are operating at an unsustainable level, bringing in only a fraction of typical revenue while working twice as hard and incurring higher per unit costs,” the letter said.

Harmening said some businesses are running out of money even if they had reserves to fall back on or got funding through the Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program.

“Right now we already have businesses that can’t reopen that are closed permanently. We expect more of that now,” she said.

Businesses have their pandemic preparedness plans in place, which were created to follow strict guidelines from federal and state officials. Small businesses are willing to take the risk though the new plans are showing a need for more staff to serve fewer customers, the chambers said in the letter.

The chambers also said Minnesotans are now “incentivized to leave our state for recreation, entertainment and travel,” which undermines the hospitality industry and encourages greater spread of COVID-19.

The letter asks Walz to move from a short-term strategy of business closures to a long-term strategy of opening businesses with personal and consumer responsibility.

“Businesses have their plans in place, now it is time to equip our citizens with preparedness templates and expectations, including social distancing and face masks, and empower them with guidance to manage their activities and maintain their health throughout the pandemic. Please establish a more concrete, rapid timeline for opening now while reminding consumers of their personal responsibility to keep Minnesota safe,” the letter said.

Kearney said one thing that’s missing on “the dial” is the public. Businesses are ready to go but the public needs to be educated on the expectations.

“We’re asking the governor come up with the standards and enforce them and hold people accountable,” he said.

Kearney and Harmening both said the chambers have had a longstanding partnership and have frequently met virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic to address various issues locally and at the state level.

“We work together on the metro level, state level and national level. We try to coordinate efforts as much as we can,” Harmening said.
A sp okesperson for Walz could not be reached for comment. Kearney said they did not expect Walz to directly respond to the letter, but to take their requests under consideration during their decision making.

Patty Dexter can be reached at  patty.dexter@apgecm.com .


Register for Tomorrow's
Free Webinar
The 'Real Time Solutions' Webinar Series Continues!
The Apple Valley Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Lakeville, Burnsville, Hastings and River Heights Chambers is excited to continue the 'Real Time Solutions' webinar series! These are complimentary Live 30-minute webinars to help your business navigate the questions, and new normal, related to the COVID-19 epidemic.

ABOUT WEDNESDAY'S TOPIC
Speaker Brian McDonald with The US Small Business Administration will provide an update on the Payroll Protection Program including how to navigate the PPP loan forgiveness process.
Upcoming Webinars (30 min each)
Wednesday June 10th | 8 am
Speaker  Brian McDonald with The US Small Business Administration will provide an update on the Payroll Protection Program including how to navigate the PPP loan forgiveness process.

Wednesday June 17th | 8 am
Speaker  Glenn Starfield with Express Employment Professionals will discuss the current staffing trends and new norms for safe hiring in this new era of COVID-19 awareness and preparedness.

Stay Safe MN Phase III Starts Tomorrow
What This Means for Businesses
Beginning tomorrow June 10, Minnesota will move into Phase 3 of the  Stay Safe Plan , which will enable more businesses to reopen and Minnesotans to return to more activities we enjoy.

With every turn of the dial, we know that the risks of possible COVID-19 transmission also increase – which is why it is more important than ever for all of us to do our part to slow the spread:
  • Wear masks whenever possible
  • Practice social distancing and stay 6 feet apart
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Absolutely stay home if you feel sick

The State of Minnesota has also launched a new website –  staysafe.mn.gov  – to serve as a one-stop-shop for all of the guidance created by state agencies to help businesses, organizations and individuals stay safe will returning to work and activities we enjoy. Guidance for all of the industries listed below and many more are available on that new hub.

So, what can reopen (or open more) beginning on June 10?
Restaurants and bars can reopen for indoor service as long as they have adopted and implemented a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan and ensure a minimum of 6 feet of distance between tables. They must also:
  • Limit indoor occupant capacity to no more than 50% up to 250 people
  • Do not exceed 250 people in outdoor spaces
  • Limit table service to 4 persons, or 6 if part of one family unit
  • Require reservations
  • Require workers to wear masks at all times and strongly encourage customers to wear masks when not eating or drinking

Gyms, studios and fitness centers can reopen as long as they have adopted and implemented a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan including the following requirements:
  • Limit occupant capacity to no more than 25%; not to exceed 250 persons for indoor and outdoor settings each
  • Strongly encourage that masks be worn by workers and users
  • Establish regular disinfection routine and train staff
  • Ensure ≥6 ft of distancing between equipment; greater distancing should be implemented for treadmills and other aerobic activity that encourages high exertion
  • Group exercise classes should only be offered if distancing requirements can be maintained and with no person-to-person physical contact

Other seated and recreational entertainment venues, such as movie theaters, bowling alleys and museums can reopen as long as they have adopted and implemented a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan including the following requirements:
  • Limit occupant capacity to no more than 25% not to exceed 250 persons
  • Ensure social distancing and a minimum of 6 feet between persons
  • Strongly encourage masks for workers and customers

Personal care services (such as hair salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors and similar establishments) can continue providing services and increase their capacity to 50%, as long as they:
  • Have adopted and implemented a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan
  • Limit number of clients inside the business at any time to ensure 6 feet of distance between persons except when providing services
  • See clients by appointment only; do not allow walk-ins
  • Require workers and clients to wear masks at all times (for services where the client cannot wear a mask, the worker should add a face shield in addition to their mask).
Apple Valley Chamber of Commerce | info@applevalleychamber.com