Executive Order updates, Waste prevention grants, Support for businesses, Business support survey results

food digest

March 17, 2021

In this issue

Increased capacity limits for restaurants, bars, and pools in Executive Order 21-11

Executive Order 21-11 began Monday, March 15, 2021, at 12 p.m. (noon) and does not have an end date.

Effective March 31, 2021, at 11:59 p.m., larger venues, restaurants, and pools will be able to expand their occupancy per the Stay Safe Guidance. Please refer to your industry’s guidance document for specific details for your business.

Please note: changes are highlighted in bold.

Restaurant and bar capacity increased

Restaurants, cafes, coffeehouses, bars, taverns, brewer taprooms, micro distiller cocktail rooms, farm wineries, craft wineries, cideries, golf courses and clubs, dining clubs, and other places of Public Accommodation that offer food and beverages can offer food for indoor and outdoor onsite consumption, within the following parameters: 

Effective March 15, 2021, at 12 p.m.:

  • Indoor capacity is limited to no more than 75% of established capacity, up to a maximum of 250 patrons.
  • Outdoor capacity is limited to the number of patrons for whom social distancing of 6 feet can be maintained between parties at different tables, not to exceed 250 people.
  • Social distancing of 6 feet must be maintained between parties.
  • Onsite dining hours are between 4 a.m. and 11 p.mTake-out and delivery may occur after 11 p.m. 
  • Table size must be limited to no more than six people. A party of four may be seated together at a bar or counter.
  • Patrons are required to wear masks indoors, except when eating or drinking.
  • Patrons must be seated in all areas, except for limited games outlined in the COVID-19 Preparedness Plan Requirements for Restaurants and Bars
  • Karaoke is allowed. Performers must wear face coverings, and they must be separated from spectators by at least 12 feet. Please refer to the Music Activities and Performances During COVID-19 document for additional information.
  • Private parties, events, receptions, or other gatherings in private, separate spaces (ballroom or other private room) are allowed if the event adheres to the requirements applicable to Guidance for Entertainment and Meeting Venues, including lower percentage capacity limits and outdoor face covering requirements.

As of March 31, 2021, at 11:59 p.m., some larger establishments may increase patron count per the Stay Safe Guidance for Entertainment and Meeting Venues 

Events, celebrations, and parties must follow venue requirements

Effective March 15, 2021, at 12 p.m.:

Capacity will increase for pools

Effective March 15, 2021, at 12 p.m.:

As of March 31, 2021, at 11:59 p.m., some larger pool facilities may increase patron count, per the COVID-19 Preparedness Plan Guidance: Requirements for Public Pools.



Stay Safe Guidance and capacity calculator

Waste prevention grants available to businesses and non-profit organizations

Hennepin County is providing funding through a new grant program to support projects that prevent waste in the business sector. Areas of focus include replacing disposable packaging, dishes, utensils and cups with reusables, food waste prevention utilizing tracking software and putting food byproducts to greater use, and innovative projects around research and development to prevent waste.

This year $300,000 is available for business waste prevention grants. Each applicant may apply for up to $50,000 toward a project, with a minimum of $5,000. Grants over $10,000 require a 25% match. Review the 2021 waste prevention grant guidelines (PDF) for details on this new grant program.

food waste picture

Park Tavern in St. Louis Park received a grant to replace single-use disposable cups with reusable cups

Application timeline

Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis until Friday, November 12, 2021, or until the annual program budget is exhausted, whichever occurs first.

Learn more

Visit the business recycling web page to learn more and apply.

Elevate Business HC offers free support to businesses impacted by COVID-19

support for businesses

COVID-19 has created many challenges for small businesses in Hennepin County. Through Elevate Business HC, Hennepin County businesses impacted by COVID-19 are eligible to receive one-on-one business consulting and technical assistance from a variety of professional service providers at no cost.

Some of the services offered include:

  • COVID-19 protocols
  • Employment law
  • Insurance policy review
  • Virtual employee engagement and retention
  • Social media, website and e-commerce
  • Financial analysis
  • And more

Learn more, register, and be paired with a technical assistance provider now: https://www.elevatebusinesshc.com/home.

Food business support survey results

Hennepin County Environmental Health conducted a Business Support Survey from 12/14/2020 – 2/4/2021 to find ways to support food and beverage businesses during these challenging times. The responses are being used to help guide our future virtual events and community engagement. There were three main topics covered: virtual events, business concerns/challenges, and other ways Environmental Health can support.

Virtual events (Questions 1-3)

What was said:

We asked respondents to rank topics in order of value for future educational virtual sessions. The topics, in order of most top choices were:

  1. COVID-19 topics
  2. Finding good resources
  3. Plan review
  4. Special processes
  5. Approved sources of food
  6. Labeling requirements
  7. Special events (itinerants)

Additional topics listed by respondents included financial assistance, food handling amidst COVID, and opening restaurants.

32% of respondents attended at least one virtual event. In addition, 12% had attended multiple events.

What we are doing:

In January, we held a free virtual in-service which included: COVID-19 quarantine and isolation review and resources, sharing of good sources of information, and plan review related to COVID requirements.

We will continue to host virtual sessions that review COVID topics as things change. We have saved all the topic ideas and will include them in future virtual sessions throughout this year. We will post information on future virtual events on our website at www.hennepin.us/envhealth.

Business concerns (Questions 4-5)

What was said:

The largest concern noted was financial burdens, with 56% of respondents listing it as their biggest concern, and 84% of respondents listing it as a concern. Others in order of total percent of concern from greatest concern to least are as follows:

  1. Financial burdens (84%)
  2. Staff not being able to work due to COVID-19 quarantine/isolation (84%)
  3. Keeping up with new requirements (80%)
  4. Mental health (72%)
  5. Obtaining supplies (68%)
  6. Maintaining proper food safety and food handling practices (60%)
  7. Obtaining CFPM CEUs (52%)
  8. Finding translated resources (44%)

Additional concerns or challenges mentioned by respondents included spacing concerns for COVID safety, executive orders, and losing restaurants.

What we are doing:

At our January virtual event, we invited Hennepin County Economic Development to present on current grant opportunities. Since the event, we have continued our relationship with them and added financial resources they have on our website. When new grant opportunities are available, we will share information about them on our website and through Food digest.

Also, at our January virtual event, we reviewed shorter quarantine options to help businesses get staff back to work quicker than 14 days, mental health resources, and new COVID requirements. We will continue to share information on new COVID requirements on our website, Food Digest, and through emails inspectors send to their areas.

Some past virtual events (October 2020 and January 2021) allowed participants to obtain CFPM CEUs for attending the live event. We will continue to offer CFPM CEUs at future virtual events related to food service.  

We are working on how we can connect businesses with supplies that may be difficult to find due to the pandemic and providing more translated resources on our website and to inspectors to give out while in the field. When inspectors are in the field, they are inspecting with a focus on high risk food safety and food handling.

Ideas for how else Environmental Health can support (Question 6)

What was said:

The increased communication from inspectors, online information, and virtual sessions have been helpful and appreciated. There was a request to share what will be covered for the virtual events to help with deciding on attending.

What we are doing:

We will continue the increased communication from inspectors and through Food digest as needed and will continue to host virtual events on pertinent topics. We will ensure the topics to be covered at the virtual event are listed on communications we use to advertise for the event to help businesses and employees decide if it would be helpful for them to attend.

All our past virtual events, including resources mentioned during them, are listed on our website under “COVID-19 resources for employers” along with the current requirements for food businesses and other helpful resources.

Thank you to all that participated in the survey. Your feedback is greatly appreciated and is helping guide our work so we can serve our licensed businesses and residents better.

Coming soon...vaccination toolkit for restaurant owners

A COVID-19 vaccination toolkit for restaurant owners will be coming soon. This toolkit would be a curated list of URLs that are specific to this population, such as links to posters or flyers they can share with their employees.

Below are some resources that may be beneficial to food businesses:

Hennepin County vaccination updates

New Hennepin County vaccination registration

CDC essential workers COVID-19 vaccine toolkit

MDH COVID vaccine employer toolkit

Farmers markets and special events

As summer approaches, we anticipate farmers markets and special events occurring - if you have any questions about licensing or food safety, please call our office at 612-543-5200.

Notice regarding access to Hennepin County website content

There has been some difficulty accessing content on Hennepin County websites while using Internet Explorer. If you are experiencing these issues, try using a different web browser.

Contact our office at 612-543-5200 if you need help locating documents (see below for links to each of our websites).

Web resources

Visit hennepin.us/envhealth for information on:

  • General environmental health 
  • Basic food safety classes 
  • Temporary food stand licensing 
  • Food license information, categories, and fee schedule 
  • New construction or remodeling application 

Radon information and test kits


Septic system requirements and procedures


Body art licensing information (tattooing and piercing)


Beaches in Hennepin County


Public swimming pool regulations


About us

Food Digest is a quarterly newsletter written by inspectors from Hennepin
County Public Health Department, and designed to support and educate Hennepin County food facility owners and operators. Articles focus on food
safety and requirements from the Minnesota Food Code and Hennepin County food ordinance.


1011 First Street S, Suite 215
Hopkins, MN 55343-9413

8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


Past issues

Previous issues of Food digest available in our archive.

Food digest feedback

Hannah Marschinke


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