Long List of COVID Closed Restaurants and Bars Sparks Revolt

The Reopen Minnesota Coalition laid it on the line this week in response to the threat Gov. Walz’s latest round of heavy-handed restrictions pose to their surviving businesses.

Sadly, we are no longer surprised by the hubris shown by our governor and his ongoing refusal to either show the scientific support for his mandates against the overwhelming data against him or explain why our COVID numbers are no different than states without mandates, and we are shocked that he would hold restaurants and bars, hostage, in exchange for releasing youth sports. This extension is another nail in the coffin of so many of these businesses and their many employees.

If you wonder why more bars and restaurants are revolting, check out the extraordinary Star Tribune obituary of the slew of top-notch eateries that have closed for good in Minneapolis already this year.

The paper’s food critic Rick Nelson got a clue of what was coming just a few weeks into the first shutdown when the son of Walz’s predecessor in the governor’s mansion, Eric Dayton, made what turned out to be a prophetic call and shut down his highly decorated downtown restaurant.

Wasn’t the Bachelor Farmer one of those forever restaurants, destined to help define the region’s gastronomic ambitions for years to come? In late January I’d assessed the work of its remarkable chef, Jonathan Gans, with a four-star review. If this top-performing establishment — one of the state’s defining restaurants — wasn’t going to weather the storm, what could?

That question was answered, grimly, in the weeks and months that followed, as we said goodbye to far too many restaurants, including far too many at the top of the critical food chain.

Nelson avoided explicitly stating a position on the governor’s lockdown that’s proved fatal for so many epicurean entrepreneurs. But it doesn’t take much imagination to read between the lines.

The toll included three more four-star restaurants — Bellecour, Butcher & the Boar, In Bloom — and five 3 ½-star hot spots: Octo Fishbar, Bardo, Popol Vuh, the Surly beer hall and pizzeria and Grand Cafe, which lost its 38th-and-Grand home.

All were gone, their business plans at odds with the realities of reduced seating capacity and/or a takeout-only existence. The loss of this fragile culinary ecosystem — economic, cultural, personal — was and continues to be unfathomable. And deeply distressing, and depressing…

It’s staggering to consider the years of Minnesota history that have been erased by the annis horribilis that is 2020. The cumulative loss represented by the demise of just these 10 restaurants — Curran’s, Fuji Ya, Little Tijuana, Granny’s Donuts, Purple Onion Cafe, the Lyn-Lake outlet of the Egg & I, Herkimer Pub & Brewery, Pazzaluna, Chino Latino and Roasted Pear — adds up to 361 years of dining experiences.

Walz’s failure of leadership in the riots and fires that broke out after George Floyd’s death in police custody led to even greater losses.

According to data compiled by the Star Tribune, 267 Twin Cities restaurants experienced riot-related damage, a number higher than any other business category. Minnesota has never witnessed such previously unimaginable destruction. May we never see it again.

Restaurants and bars statewide face the same challenges and outcome as their Twin Cities counterparts. But more appear determined to make a last stand of sorts before becoming copy for the next media story on the demise of Minnesota’s hospitality industry.