The way Cindy Corbett sees it, Gov. Tim Walz gave her a birthday present.
How else can she explain the fact that she was able to celebrate her 60th birthday at the Monticello VFW with a group of her closest girlfriends- and have adult beverages and hot appetizers to boot!
Corbett and her husband Gary came across the river from Big Lake to meet with Cindy’s Monticello girlfriends on an afternoon when temperatures reached the mid-90s and the beer on the VFW’s patio was in the 30s.
For the first time in 11 weeks, Minnesota restaurants were allowed to open on Monday- even if only for outdoor seating and with restrictions.
The VFW in Monticello was one of the restaurants that chose to open.
“It went better than expected,” said Christina Lincoln, manager of the VFW.
“We had good crowds, especially early in the evening,” she said.
Not every day will be like Monday, Lincoln acknowledges. For example, the 90 degree temperatures on Tuesday, June 2 were met with severe thunderstorms that brought outdoor dining to a halt.
“We’re going to have to go day by day,” Lincoln said.
There is also a learning curve going on at many restaurants that opened. For example, many restaurants and bars are not used to having to take reservations, one of the restrictions imposed by the Governor that is designed to help maintain social distancing regulations.
“It will take a while to learn what works out best for everyone,” Lincoln said.
Service at the VFW was just fine, as far as Cindy Corbett was concerned.
A friend of hers in Monticello made reservations and before long, the ladies were catching up like old times.
“It’s been so long that we’ve been together that we had plenty of complaining to do about our spouses,” Cindy Corbett said with a laugh.
Her husband Gary nodded in agreement.
Over at Pancho Villa, manager Pablo Andrade was all set for a big Monday night. Andrade had four tables and two high-tops with customers- the maximum he could serve under the Governor’s order.
Pablo Andrade and his staff were happy to see customers for sit-down dining again, and the customers seemed ready to enjoy ice cold margaritas on a 90-degree day.
At Chatters, the restaurant team modified its outdoors seating with five tables in the restaurant parking lot to accommdate the tables already situated on the restaurant patio.
At 3:45 p.m. five tables were filled with customers. Restaurant management said Monday afternoon had already been “hectic”- a good sign ror a business relying on customer counts.
In Big Lake, as the clock turned to 5 p.m. at Larry Speer’s restaurant Russells on the Lake, people were already on the deck overlooking the active waters of Big Lake, on what appeared to be a hot but perfect summer afternoon.
Maybe Cindy and Gary Corbett made their way to Russells.
While finishing up their stay at the VFW in Monticello, Gary noted that the bar crawl was continuing across the river to Big Lake.
The couple was celebrating a birthday- and return of outdoor dining- in style.