For restaurant owners nationwide, this week was filled with news headlines on opposite poles. On the positive side, over 40 states now allow dine-in service, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans have increased to $510 billion in total, and the House of Representatives passed the PPP Flexibility Act primarily to benefit restaurant owners. On the negative side, social unrest continues as U.S. unemployment filings reach 41 million, protestors rally against Derek Chauvin, and Twitter co-founders Jack Dorsey and Ev Williams fight a First Amendment battle with the White House.
For Minneapolis and St. Paul restaurant owners, however, there was certainly no silver lining this week. For operators in certain areas near the cities’ nexus, the environment became apocalyptic today.
Beginning June 1, restaurants and bars were set to reopen for outdoor service across the Twin Cities. New rules included a 50 person capacity cap, six feet of social distance, advance reservation requirement, and mandated Personal Protective Equipment for staff like masks and gloves.
None of that matters right now. Protests have tragically degraded into mobs, arson, and violence following the death of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin. Today, the FBI and local authorities have charged Chauvin with murder in the third degree.
“Let my building burn,” said Gandhi Mahal, owner of a restaurant in the Cooper neighborhood of Minneapolis. Another local restaurateur also stepped away, “I didn’t want to keep my restaurant running knowing that a man had just died. I just had to stand back for a minute.”
Prior to the death of George Floyd, things were just starting to get better for Twin City restaurants. Many sit-down restaurant owners were preparing for Governor Tim Walz’s order to take effect this coming Monday, June 1, “allowing limited outdoor dining and personal services businesses to open at a limited capacity.” In the neighboring city of Saint Paul, June 1 was also the date the Mayor Melvin Carter had set for “outdoor patio seating as allowed by Phase II of the Stay Safe Minnesota Plan.”
That deadline will likely be extended, as the governor focuses on emergency issues and working with the National Guard to limit violence.
“The video of a Minneapolis police officer killing a defenseless, handcuffed man is one of the most vile and heartbreaking images I’ve ever seen,” said Mayor Carter. “This must stop now.”
A television reporter recorded a video of the charred remains of Bolé Ethiopian restaurant on University Ave in St. Paul. “This is what I’m watching happen in St.Paul and Minneapolis MN! Loitering,Targets being burned, buildings on fire, small business, restaurants… really scary here!” says another resident a few hours ago.
One small news bureau is attempting to log the numerous buildings damaged during the protests. Tragically, reporters have already tallied dozens of restaurants amid over 200 small businesses. One image of local eatery Hexagon Bar is worth 1,000 words, as the saying goes.
“The National Guard has arrived on the scene. They are in Minneapolis and fully prepared,” said President Trump today. “George Floyd will not have died in vain. Respect his memory!”