Bars and restaurants were able to reopen their doors for dine-in services at 50% capacity Monday under Gov. Tim Walz Jan. 6 announcement which loosened COVID-19 restrictions.

Tony Donatell, owner of multiple restaurants in the Twin Cities metro area including Whiskey Inferno in Savage and Tequila Butcher in Chanhassen, said reopening his restaurants to guests was “exciting to say the least.”

“It’s been rough, hopefully it’s the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

Throughout the shutdowns, Donatell has been able to maintain a majority of the staff at all of his restaurants. Due to dine-in restrictions, servers and bartenders were laid off, but all managers and culinary staff remained working as the restaurants ran ghost kitchens, holiday dinners and drive-in events in an attempt to make up for the loss in business.

Donatell said he is most looking forward to seeing his customers’ faces and serving them again.

“The same is true for all of our managers and servers and bartenders. They chose this career because they enjoy serving people and taking care of people. It’s been hard not being able to do it and just doing it through curbside, to-go is not the same. Making people cool beverages and good food and seeing their reactions, it’s what we live for in the restaurant industry,” Donatell said.