Minneapolis Businesses Call on Mayor to Improve City’s Perception

A worker shovels broken glass outside of Nordstrom Rack in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. An emergency curfew has expired and downtown Minneapolis was calm after unrest broke out overnight following what authorities said was misinformation about the suicide of a Black homicide suspect.(AP Photo/Jeff Baenen)
AP Photo/Jeff Baenen

Forty Minneapolis restaurants have publicly reached out to Mayor Jacob Frey in a letter to request help in improving the perception of downtown businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing anti-police protests.

In the joint letter, which was sent to Frey’s office on Tuesday, restaurant and small business owners highlight public safety, saying they’re in a “state of desolation” as a result of little policing and declining business.

“We are a group of more than 40 small-business owners and leaders in Downtown Minneapolis—the heart of your city—with a concentration in restaurants,” the letter stated. “And we are in a state of desolation.”

The letter continued, noting the reasons behind declining sales are “not just because of COVID:

It’s not just because of COVID. When it comes to this virus, businesses have built a weary resilience with a sense of optimism: There are plans to be followed, protective measures in place, and an eventual light at the end of the tunnel. The caveat is that we need you, the government, to help to get the people back downtown and to their offices (we’re looking at you, Governor Walz). We need you to allow dining at bars again, Mayor Frey, without penalizing the whole for the actions of the few, so that restaurants can choose how to weather this storm and come out in one—albeit damaged—piece.

The letter goes on to highlight the lack of “transparency about public safety plans” and insists it does not “matter” which side of the “defund the police debate you fall on.”

“Even those who refuse to let fear run their lives, even those who live in the city and have spent years feeling relatively safe despite the occasional incident, are turning away,” according to the letter, which goes on:

The numbers speak for themselves, and the vibrations throughout Minneapolis can’t be ignored: Perception begets reality, and the strong feelings of unsafety in our downtown are very real. No matter which side of the “defund the police” debate you fall on, the absence of communication and transparency about public safety plans creates even more fear, uncertainty and frustration.

Popular restaurants in the area that took part in crafting the letter include Dakota Jazz Club, Black Sheep Pizza, Smack Shack, Hell’s Kitchen, and Brit’s Pub.

Officials from the businesses also took aim at the city’s lack of leadership, saying in the letter, “We are still supporting the city, but the city is not supporting us.”

“Our businesses are struggling. Some are failing; several have already closed. Many others have been boarded up for months, yet continue to be hit with rent and property taxes,” the letter continued, adding:

Our patrons are paying entertainment and stadium taxes, even with no events or activity. We are still supporting the city, but the city is not supporting us. If this trend continues, a city can take decades of work and a major movement to recover. History has proven it, and we need to reverse course before we become a lost city.

In closing, the letter called for the city to “take action” against the factors that continue to hinder the progression of recovering businesses after the COVID-19 pandemic, including violent protests.

“We are asking you to stand up, take action, help us fight, and help us be part of the city’s future to make this city vibrant again before it’s too late,” the letter concluded. “We need the people back, and we need to ensure their safety. Please let us know your plan.”

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