Local Restaurants & Ice Cream Shops Weigh Future
Since Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order went into effect March 27, businesses deemed non-essential have had to adjust. Restaurants, retailers and entertainment places have had to either lay off or furlough workers. Others closed hoping to resume operations after a short hiatus.
At Rock Elm Tavern, which has locations in Maple Grove and Plymouth, the restaurant is offering curbside pickup and prepare at home options to try to survive.
“It’s been really devastating,” said co-owner Troy Reding. “We’re doing about 20 percent of our normal sales volume.”
Reding closed the other restaurant his team owns, Holman’s Table in St. Paul. He partnered with Dawn Olson-Wallerus to open Sugar & Spice Sweetery, which is located next door to Rock Elm Tavern in Maple Grove. The Sugar & Spice Sweetery is running on reduced days open offering curbside pickup due to the pandemic.
“It’s not sustainable,” said Reding.
Wide Range of Opinions on Stay-at-Home Order
There have been a wide range of opinions on the stay-at-home order. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, the top-ranking Republican in the Minnesota Legislature, expressed opposition to the governor’s decision of extending the stay-at-home order until May 4.
Others like Kevin Roche, who runs a commentary website called the Healthy Skeptic, also offered a critical view.
“People have allowed themselves to be stampeded into taking pretty extreme measures to mitigate the spread of the virus,” said Roche.
Roche was previously assistant general counsel at Park Nicollet Medical Center and American Medical Centers and then general counsel for UnitedHealth Group. Today he provides consulting services to health care companies.
Roche says it was apparent from the early stages that the novel coronavirus was primarily going to affect a few vulnerable populations, including the elderly, people who are immunocompromised and those with chronic illnesses. The CDC website lists those at higher risk for the virus.
“So to me, from the very start you should have been looking at a range of mitigation measures,” said Roche. “You should have been analyzing the potential economic and other effects of each of those measures and coming up with a package that in a more balanced way tried to protect the obviously vulnerable populations, but at the same time not do the kind of incredible damage that we have now seen to the economy here in Minnesota.”
However, the Minnesota Medical Association released a statement that it and more than a dozen medical societies in the state “strongly support” Walz’s stay-at-home action. Other large business groups, including the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, gave broad support calling it “a measured approach that keeps key industries functioning while curbing the spread of the coronavirus.”
Stay-at-Home Still Difficult
Honey and Mackie’s, an ice cream shop in Plymouth, was looking forward to celebrating its seventh year in business this summer. Now owner Suzanne Varecka is looking for ways to just hang on.
“Ice cream shops as you know are seasonal. We do 80-90 percent of our business from May until August. And so not being able to have the density, or the number of people coming through will significantly hurt us in the long run,” said Varecka.
Mike Kinnan, owner of The Lookout Bar and Grill in Maple Grove, says he’s had to lay off 100 employees.
“It’s dramatic. We have a catering company that’s totally shut down. Our concession company, which is our food trucks and stuff is totally shut down. And we’re down 93 percent here at the restaurant,” said Kinnan. “I’ve still got about 10 working doing to-go food and stuff but, not sustainable.”
The Difficult Question: When to Reopen Minnesota?
The business owners CCX News spoke with offered their views to a difficult question: should Minnesota reopen for business like some states have started to do.
“I think so. I think it’s hard on the economy. It is for sure hard on retail,” said Reding.
“I think that there are ways to do it. And I think that we as Minnesotans as a whole and our government as a whole we really need to put our minds together and figure out how to do it and do it quickly so small businesses myself and so many of my colleagues don’t end up closing in all of this,” said Varecka.
“At some point we just gotta rip the bandage off and get back to doing what we do,” said Kinnan.