An intersection: Lyndale Ave & Lake St

Lyndale Avenue South at Lake Street West

From what I hear the rent costs at this intersection have been wildly out of line with the true costs for years now, if what I’ve heard is right. Setting that aside for a moment, there is plenty of story to be had. Heck, someone on streets.mn even did a photo essay of all the vacant storefronts back in 2016.

Not a lot has changed… but with the pandemic some things are definitely changing here

Northeast Corner

It’s Greek To Me used to live here until it closed in September 8, 2019 after a stellar 37 year run. They tried a few different things at the end but… didn’t really make a difference, blaming the sale of the parking lot behind them as one big factor of the closure. Not going to say much about the service, which we found hit or miss over time.

To the north (past Jungle Theater) you’d find Muddy Waters, which just closed on May 2, 2020. To the east you find Trio Plant-Based, holding down one of the “cursed” locations of the intersection.

But the corner itself has been sitting empty for 8 months and there is no word of any new restaurants opening there, or any redevelopment.

Southeast Corner

Held down by Iron Door Pub since 2015 after much drama, we’ve found it a good place for decently priced strong drinks. It’s not Cause… but it turned out to be a great place to watch the game.

The stores to the south of it have come and gone without much fuss.

Southwest Corner

Currently held down by Prieto Taqueria Bar, opened last year. This corner has a story of being a really hard spot to hold down for any length of time after the demise of Falafel King. Not quite cursed… yet.

Next door to the south you have Blue Door Pub which took over the spot from the much-missed Country Bar & Grill, then Caffrey’s Deli & Subs, which along with Cause saw its share of drama.

Only Caffrey’s looks like it’ll come out of pandemic closure more or less unscathed.

Northwest Corner

Most people don’t even think of this corner at this point except for the big ole sign built on its roof:

It’s been empty for years after Milio’s closed. Redfin has it off market and valued around 825K… but doesn’t actually say if anything is being developed anymore.

It’d make a hell of a rooftop if it weren’t for the sign.

Next door to the north you have Moto-i—which does have one hell of a rooftop, and Lyn-Lake Brewery, which also has a great rooftop.

So what now?

The big worry for a lot of people around here is having Lyn-Lake turn into another Uptown. We have heard people refer to this part of town as Uptown and… it just doesn’t sit right, really. The main similarity they’ll have is multiple empty storefronts all over.

It is not one we appreciate. Here is hoping this intersection rebounds sooner rather than later. I’m sure there are more intersections in other cities that have complicated histories and complicated stories.

Tell us in the comments.

On Third Party Delivery Services

This post is currently making the rounds

Having worked in one such service years ago I can confirm how the math is done. No matter what service you go with, a restaurant stands to make cents of “profit” for every dollar of sales, while the costs are that much higher for the customer. It’s getting to the point where local and state governments are starting to look into it.

The percentages are lopsided to heavily favor the services themselves, and that’s by design. A lot of people have commented on this fact in a lot of places.

Do the right thing: pick up the phone and call the restaurant directly— yes, it will mean talking to someone (the horror!) but it usually will result in you (as the guest) developing a relationship with the restaurant itself. This is a good thing. You want to save your favorite restaurant, right? This is what you have to do.

A small sacrifice to help not only the restaurant itself, but the people working there.

Under Pressure

Just like the song. The governor extended the stay-at-home order until May 18.

The restaurant industry in our state is reeling. You can go from basic PR announcements to personal stories, but the facts are stark: Our industry is bleeding dry due to the pandemic and from the looks of it the amount of help we’ll get is going to be severely limited.

All you have to do is look at the federal response.The National Restaurant Association put out a report and the numbers are depressing, to say the least:

  • Nationwide, sales were down 47% during the period from March 1 to March 22
  • 54% of restaurant operators have switched to off-premises service only
  • Seven in 10 operators have had to lay off employees and reduce the number of hours worked
  • Roughly half of them anticipate more layoffs and hourly reductions over the next 30 days
  • More than six in 10 said they’ve had to reduce their operating hours

Yes, I know the entire planet is looking at the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, but we can still hope for a better future while being sad about what we’re losing.

The end of a golden era in bars and restaurants.

Our world stops

Stop

As of yesterday I have been furloughed by my employer. Granted, I was working minimal hours as a host, but still… it does hurt the bottom line. Our governor announced basically all places of leisure are to close until March 27, including all restaurants, pubs, breweries, food halls/courts, in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The situation is quite scary for people in food service right now. I can think of at least two restaurants that might not survive being closed down for this long, and that is contingent on the closure not being extended further into the future. In Nevada they’re set to close for 30 days, so that will make for an even harder experience for the industry in that state.

It will be a hard time for everyone. Let us help each other in the industry:

  • Pickup food from your local food bank, and donate to it when the situation is better.
  • Apply for unemployment benefits. Check with your employer beforehand as some employers are not being honest or forthcoming about employment status.
  • Some grocery and big-box stores are hiring temporary help due to the crush of people. Of course, this risks community exposure to possible contagion, which you may or may not want.
  • Look around for more resources. A good place to start is this Eater list.
  • If you’re stuck at home, video call your service industry friends. Don’t text or call. A lot of people rely on the job to get their share of social interaction for the day and it helps your mental health to talk with other people in the same situation.
  • Go outside. You don’t have to stay cooped up indoors. Just make sure to apply proper social distancing.

I’m sure everyone has seen plenty of articles about staying productive but remember. Not everything is about money. Do what you like to do and get into building better habits for yourself.

This will be hard for everyone but remember you’re not alone.

Edit 2020-03-18 06-31: Check out this r/KitchenConfidential COVID-19 megathread with a ton of links to resources and help!

Fodder: Scab Salt

#saltbae sitting on an easy chair

Source: Salt Bae’s Meat Empire Is Rife With Labor Problems – VICE

Apparently this is something Salt Bae has dragged along with him from before he even his the meme big leagues in addition to accusations of sexism, racism, willfully ignoring health violations, etc etc etc. That’s before the most substantial accusation of them all: That his food is just bad.

The industry is already notorious for intensely disliking union and those that would push a union agenda in a restaurant and what unionizing would do to a business, whether the fears that are real or imagined. There are multiple pros and cons for each and we are not going to go into those in this post.

The choice quote of the Vice article:

Kucur talked about Gökçe’s obsession with Scarface: “He was so influenced by the movie. He thinks he is like Tony Montana. He said to me, ‘What’s the name on the restaurant? Nusr-Et. What’s my name? Nusret. What I say, goes.'”

We should all be so fortunate if the fireworks are even a smidgen like in the finale of the movie.

Someday the band will get back together

Closing a restaurant means staring directly at your reflection and seeing a quitter staring back at you

Source: How to Close a Restaurant – Eater

A few months ago the staff of the restaurant I was working at were all told of an all-hands meeting. Nobody thought it strange as it had been over six months since the last meeting and that one had resulted in an entire reworking of the menu. So it was time.

I started getting giddy when the corporate Chef showed up, and then one of the owners showed up. Something was afoot. So we all walked down to the conference room of the building, and the boss immediately dropped the bomb on us.

The restaurant was to close down when the lease was up, a month and a half from that day.

It did come as a bit of a surprise to most of the staff—myself included. Our numbers weren’t the best but we were breaking even, or so I thought. We had a fair number of regulars, and people regularly raved about the quality of the food.

It meant a number of things but first and foremost it meant a fair number of employees would have to seek out new employment in the slowest season of the year.

But here’s the thing. This is closing down a restaurant from an employee’s point of view. I did not have to worry about emptying out the space, or closing down accounts with suppliers and purveyors, or worrying about those last paychecks. It is a very different experience since as an employee you… get to just walk away worrying only about that last paycheck.

It still smarts. There are always more restaurants to work at but it is a special thing when you have a good crew working together.

Maybe someday it will happen again.

Hope springs eternal

The current winter season in my city has been absolutely brutal. As of right now we have had 12 restaurants close down since the middle of December and I am hearing rumblings of a few other places that are between a rock and a hard place.

Very Very Very Closed (2)
Very very very CLOSED, via Flickr

A few have done the absolute worst by their employees and let them go without any notice whatsoever. Others just a week of warning. Few are those that do right by their people and give them proper warning so they can start looking for employment elsewhere.

This does lead to the specific problem I am thinking about as I write this. There is now a glut of skilled restaurant people looking for work in this town and no one will, or can, hire them. In the summer months restaurants are absolutely desperate to hire skilled labor, but the situation reverses during the winter months.

This year has also been much, much worse in terms of closures. If memory serves the average was three or four restaurants permanently closing for business. I am not about to go down an internet rabbit hole looking for data so it is likely the average is higher, yet no one really talked about it. In this industry places can and will come and go in the blink of an eye.

So, what happens to those newly unemployed hands? A lot of them probably have other jobs they can rely on to pay the bills. Others will find employment, maybe in this area, or by moving to another part of the country. But a few will quit— and will not come back to the industry. This applies particularly to the cooks. Cannot sell food if there is no one in the kitchen to cook it.

There is some hope with some new restaurants already open and others that will be opening in the coming weeks and months, but it might not be soon enough for people in trouble now. When spring arrives the employment cycle will, without fail, start over.

Some people are blaming local government for raising the minimum wage or for general hostility to small businesses. Others are blaming the state for favoring Big Business. Let us please not talk about the federal government. Everyone is kinda sorta joking about blaming Millennials, even though they’re the labor pool most restaurants depend on much to their own detriment— when is the last time you saw a server over the age of 50 working somewhere other than a diner?

I don’t have a solution or even the idea for a solution. I just noticed this fact and consider myself fortunate to have a career in a different sector, with enough time to turn my thoughts to this industry that has taught me so much and I hope will keep doing so.

I hope that most find jobs quickly at good places. For now hoping is all I can do.

Leaving, both ways

This post started so innocently, in a most innocuous manner.

Got up from the desk, went over to the kitchen with my mug. Grabbed some tea, filled the mug with hot water, set a timer. That’s when I saw them:

iPhone with timer app open
There’s an app for that

All the timers I had set for items I would be cooking:

  • Baked beans
  • Braised chicken
  • Spicy ground meat. Deep, red spice and heat, almost a chili.
  • Sous-vide eggs
  • Random odds and ends that just remained there

Those timers were on my phone for months while I worked at this establishment. Timers for basically everything there was, with names that were easy for voice recognition to work with.

Without these timers I assure you, I would not even be in a kitchen. Al the product I would be burning and throwing away, all the waste. Working on the line gives you a great sense of timing but nothing beats having a timer.

And then, my mind still in efficiency mode, I deleted them all.

It wasn’t until I was done with this that I realized what it was I had done. This restaurant recently closed down and I know a few of the employees there are still reeling, yet here I am casually deleting the last remnant of it on something I use every day, namely, my smartphone.

Yes, there are the mementos: a couple of spoons, a pan, a mug, the great many pictures of my coworkers goofing off. But these timers… they were something of actual use, not just something that was done for fun. This was done for actual work.

But they’re gone now.

You leave a restaurant, and slowly, bit by bit, a restaurant leaves you.

There is a bar out there what will do this

Surfing around found myself entranced by this post over on Reddit:

Sure the design of the cup makes you feel like a child— which might be what the bar wants. Perhaps there are other designs out there that would hold up to the rigors of food service but I have yet to find one that fits the bill. Maybe one fully made of glass, with a wide straw opening?

Then of course you could use metal straws.

I have yet to see a bar actually washing the inside of them properly so your mileage as a bar person will vary depending on what the boss got for the place.

You could also use paper straws, which seem to be the preferred solution for bars everywhere.

People will complain they go soft too quickly… but that’s because you’re leaving the straw inside. You can put it on the bar on a napkin, or on a saucer if provided one.

Me? I’m all for sippy cups.

Wine Tariffs

The story is simple: The president has said he wants to protect American trade but the actions he has taken up to this point have proven he is just not up to the task. Which brings us to something a lot of people are not really prepared to deal with:

The potential upcoming tariffs (up to a 100%!) on articles of European origin. These would be on top of the tariffs started back in October of 2019.

Having gotten in a trade war with China the federal government is now getting into something that could be termed trade skirmishes, all because the president did not like something the European Union was free to determine for itself after a long-running legal fight that involved the World Trade Organization.

Please comment on this regulation at regulations.gov, and contact your Congress representatives to dissuade the U.S. Trade Representative from this levy.

I am just typing this up quick, but there are plenty of explainers out there. Just don’t believe that you specifically will be able to drink around it. There are many great and excellent wines made outside of Europe, yes, but they’re not the one you like, or the one you remember so fondly, or a myriad of reasons. Look around! Information is always there.

Be aware this levy is not only on wine. Other products are also affected: Cheese, olive oil, and oh yeah, whiskey and scotch.

Your local favorite restaurant with that wine you have not been able to find anywhere else will thank you for it.

Another go, another try

Well, here we are again. Maybe this time I will actually be able to develop this into what I have envisioned— main problem being I don’t really have a vision for what I want this to be… yet. But I’m sure ideas will follow.

I type this as another chapter of my food service career ends: The restaurant where I have been working for the past few months is in the process of shutting down. I have already worked my last shift and all that remains is to pick up odds and ends that I have taken there to make my job easier. The company is making some effort to place employees at other restaurants but given the current winter season there is only so much it can do.

I am not to worried as I do have employment elsewhere that, I hope, will allow me to actively bring my words here.

Here’s to a new year.

Restaurant Industry 2030

I’m just about two months late to this party but better late than never, right? The National Restaurant Association did a report on what they think will happen over the next 30 years and it is worth a read, even if it is for the chuckles you’ll get out of it.

Restaurant 2010. A look ahead at the forces experts predict will shape our industry.

Be aware— it is kind of a large download, tipping the scales at 30 Megabytes which is why I am linking to its landing page instead of the document itself. If you are limited on bandwidth wait to hook up to someone’s wifi.