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Businesses contend with state reopening, protests

Restaurants and businesses across the state have begun opening with restrictions June 1.
The Red Sea Resturaunt in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood on Friday, June 5.
Image by Andy Kosier
The Red Sea Resturaunt in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood on Friday, June 5.

As the state begins to reopen and protests break out through Minneapolis, several businesses near the University of Minnesota campus are contending with the option to unlock their doors for customers.

When government restrictions began ramping up in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the statewide shuttering of several businesses limited them to takeout only options. Now as reopening measures are underway by Gov. Tim Walz, some restaurants near the University have begun servicing customers tableside.

Starting June 1, businesses with patios were able to open with a limit of 50 patrons with reservations.

Businesses with patios near campus have chosen a variety of options. Some opened during the past week, some remained closed and some postponed opening due to recent protests over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. 

“One thing that we’ve learned throughout the past couple of months is that everything changes very rapidly,” said Surly Brewing Co.’s executive chef, Ben Peine. “You just gotta be prepared for that change and adapt and roll with the punches.”

Surly, located in Prospect Park, planned to open on the first day they were allowed. But he said, due to concerns about employees coming to work from their homes near the protests, managers decided to postpone opening. The brewery will now open by June 9 for patio service.

Sally’s Saloon in Stadium Village was also supposed to open last week, but due to riot damage to Cowboy Slim’s — a sister restaurant in Uptown — Sally’s is postponing that date. The new date has not yet been set. 

Russom Solomon, owner of The Red Sea Ethiopian Restaurant and Bar in Cedar-Riverside, decided to open June 1 despite unrest near the neighborhood. Solomon said he was excited about reopening, but “it’s a challenging time.” 

By the end of the week, Solomon said business has been slow.

“The mood isn’t there,” he said, referring to the city’s struggles with the officer killing and ongoing protests.

Other businesses, like Stub and Herb’s in Stadium Village, plan to open later than June 1.

“Financially, it doesn’t make sense for us to open just the patio,” said Josh Zavadil, owner of Stub and Herb’s. “A lot of the staff is hesitant to come back right now, I’m not going to make them work if they don’t want to.”

Zavadil added that his employees may be making more money from unemployment than working. Minnesota’s unpredictable weather and the possibility of rain also impacted his decision to keep the restaurant patio closed. He said he would consider reopening once they are allowed to open in some capacity indoors.

With an announcement by Walz last week, indoor restaurants will begin to open with a 50% capacity. Now, under the updated guidelines, Zavadil said Stub and Herb’s plans to open by June 12. 

Surly’s Peine said plans will be updated as guidelines change. 

He said, “We’re kind of taking it week by week, and sometimes, day by day … Those hours and days will expand as we see fit.”

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