Hard Times emerges from closure, with makeover

The café closed after a car plowed into its outer wall.

Julia Merle-Smith moves a table in place at Hard Times Café on West Bank. The café is preparing to re-open after a vehicle drove through the side of the building last week.

Julia Merle-Smith moves a table in place at Hard Times Café on West Bank. The café is preparing to re-open after a vehicle drove through the side of the building last week.

Jennifer Bissell

After closing its doors last week when a driver crashed into its outer wall, Hard Times Café will reopen Thursday, debuting some small renovations.
Co-owner Julia Merle-Smith said the cooperative used the time off over the past week to clean and give the restaurant a small makeover.
Employees sanded and refinished tables and chairs, repainted bathrooms and replaced some flooring.
Closed doors are a rarity at Hard Times, which stays open 22 hours a day and closes only two days of the year for cleaning and repairs, Merle-Smith said. Doing all the repairs at once makes the café look almost new again, Merle-Smith said.
A car rammed into the side of the building April 3, shoving the restaurantâÄôs dishwasher and plumbing off the wall by nearly 6 inches.
Without a way to clean their dishes, workers simply threw in the towel and closed the shop a half-hour after the crash.
The restaurant and the driverâÄôs insurance will be paying for the damage.
Philip Klobuchar, another co-owner and a junior at the University of Minnesota, said the communityâÄôs response to the closing has been a surprise.
âÄúItâÄôs actually been really funny,âÄù Klobuchar said. âÄú[ItâÄôs] shocking to [see] how itâÄôs kind of a big deal with everyone.âÄù
While biking around campus, Klobuchar said a number of customers have stopped to flag him down for an update and that the caféâÄôs phone rings every 20 minutes with inquiries.
Those who ventured to the café itself saw promising signs: âÄúSee you Thursday,âÄù they read.
Harmony Kennis of Rochester, Minn., said she first thought the blunt note on the door about someone crashing into the restaurant was a joke.
Kennis, 17, said she had never been to the café but had always wanted to try the restaurant since sheâÄôs on campus every couple of weeks.
âÄúI wanted to go to another place thatâÄôs more vegan friendly,âÄù said Kennis, whoâÄôs been a vegan for three years. Hard Times is known for its vegan offerings and punk style.
With the restaurant being one of few places in the area open late, a number of homeless youth and adults often use the space at night.
âÄúFor a lot of people this place is a staple, but thereâÄôs enough places around here that are welcoming,âÄù Merle-Smith said.
âÄúOn Thursday weâÄôll open, and it will be like nothing happened.âÄù