Long circled on the calendar for restaurateurs, June 1 was supposed to be the day for a new beginning. After more than two months without seated customers due to the coronavirus, restaurants finally got the greenlight from the state to open their patios on Monday.
But three nights of escalating community unrest in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd — which saw several Minneapolis restaurants damaged by fire, looting or vandalism — has owners reconsidering whether they will take Gov. Tim Walz up on the offer to reopen for outdoor dining.
“We’re just flabbergasted,” said Luke Derheim, director of operations for Craft & Crew Hospitality, which owns four restaurants, including two in Minneapolis. “Just when we thought things were going to get better, now we’re having to grapple with an even larger crisis in the city.”
All of Craft & Crew’s restaurants are taking reservations for patio seating next week. But Derheim and his team will be making a final decision on opening the Minneapolis spots — the Howe Daily Kitchen & Bar in south Minneapolis, and Stanley’s Northeast Bar Room — over the weekend.
“We’re just trying to piece it together day by day or hour by hour,” he said.
Brit’s Pub, in downtown Minneapolis, was preparing to open its rooftop Monday for lunch. Now, general manager Shane Higgins said that opening could be a week or two away. Takeout has been suspended, too, and the restaurant on Nicollet Mall has been boarded up.
“We don’t want anybody on the premises,” he said. “For the safety of guests and employees, there’s absolutely no point in trying to do carryout.”
Surly Brewing’s expansive beer garden was ready for outdoor dining under the state’s parameters — tables placed at least 6 feet apart, no more than 50 customers at a time. Staffers would have their temperature checked before they could work.
Those plans are on hold after a manager who lives in the neighborhood hit hardest by the unrest came to work in tears ahead of a COVID-19-related safety training.
“That was the thing that catapulted everybody into realizing this is a bigger situation than what we’re trying to do right now,” said Dan DiNovis, Surly’s vice president of hospitality.
The company will reconvene Tuesday, after suspending takeout this weekend, and decide the next move.
The decision is almost existential, in light of the devastation faced by fellow restaurants and bars in other parts of the city.
“It’s the abyss,” DiNovis said. “What is going on in the world right now? What is trying to operate a restaurant? I don’t know, because I see a lot of them getting burned down.”
Not only restaurants are re-evaluating their long-wished-for reopenings.
The Mall of America will not open for retail Monday as planned either. MOA officials said they would announce a new opening date when it is finalized. Access to the property will be restricted through at least Sunday to ensure safety of employees. Curbside pickup also has been suspended.
“Many of our tenants were planning on using this weekend to prepare their stores and train their employees for reopening,” the mall said in a statement. “With no access to the building, that will not be possible. By delaying our reopening date, it will give mall retailers additional time to prepare.”
Staff at Amore Uptown, an Italian restaurant on West Lake Street — a 3-mile straight shot from the epicenter of the looting and rioting on East Lake Street — say they have “every intention” to open the rooftop Monday as planned.
“We would be pretty devastated if we weren’t able to go forward with that,” said assistant general manager Corey McHugh.
Eating at a restaurant, after all this time at home, might even be a salve for Minneapolis’ wounds.
“We certainly understand people’s grievances and we want to be able to serve great food, give great service in this time of uncertainty,” McHugh said. “Even a short evening spent dining out with friends and family can change morale.”
Baldamar, in Rosedale Mall’s parking lot, shuttered Friday at the request of mall management. But owner Randy Stanley also hopes the restaurant’s patio will be up and running Monday if it’s safe. A lingering question: How might citywide curfews, should they extend beyond the weekend, affect dinner hours and staff’s ability to come and go? That’s just “another curveball,” among many this year, said Stanley.
“You know, it’s just been one punch in the gut after another,” he said.
But Stanley said he’s ready for whatever comes next. “Failure is not an option,” he said. “We’re going to march on, no matter what.”
Peter Campbell, owner of Red Wagon Pizza in southwest Minneapolis, hadn’t planned to open his patio June 1 (“The seating doesn’t justify the expense,” he said).
But he also hadn’t planned on suspending takeout and covering the windows with wooden boards on Friday.
It was a decision he made after two nearby businesses were vandalized the night before, and a decision that shook him as someone whose business is hospitality.
“We’ve spent the last two months saying, ‘Don’t come near us; don’t walk in the building,’ ” Campbell said. “And now to board up the building? That goes against everything we’ve built. It’s devastating.”