Third Wave

Covid in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count

It’s here. Or more appropriately, it’s a tsunami. A wildfire. Ten million cases.

COVID-19 US cases by county, by Johns Hopkins University

No matter how hard local and state governments try to spin it or deny it (particularly Republican governors), the third wave of infection in the United States has arrived just as the weather in most of the Midwest has cooled down after what one of the warmest weeks in recent history, which thankfully happened during the election.

But now that’s done and people will be heading indoors. From what I’ve seen a fair amount believe now that the election is done it’s more or less “safe” to be out and about, but that is mere wishful thinking.

The risk is higher than ever.

Because of this governments are starting to take action and one of the first targets is the food service industry:

  • Minnesota governor Tim Walz will announce bars and restaurants to close at 10 P.M. on Tuesday November 10.
  • Wisconsin as of right now has nothing planned. The state Supreme Court keeps striking down all efforts of Democrat governor Tony Evers.
  • North Dakota’s governor, Doug Burgum, has only issued recommendations to reduce capacity but no order has been issued to help prevent virus spread.
  • South Dakota tried to one-up their neighbors to the north. Governor Kristi Noem went in on a scheme to promote tourism from people frustrated by lockdowns in other states. Her position remains about the same.
  • Michigan is likely on the verge of a second lockdown. This past week contagion rates skyrocketed. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been very proactive about communicating her plans.

None of this bodes well for any our industry. OpenTable currently has a state-by-state map of restrictions to help clientele navigate the situation but without comprehensive assistance from local, state and federal governments society at large stands to lose a vast amount of bars, restaurants, coffeeshops… ranging from chains like Starbucks and Pizza Hut, to little hole in the wall joints.

Eater wrote about it back in August. Vox said about the same in September. Mashed wrote what Andrew Zimmern thinks will happen if there is no bailout. Yahoo News has already reported about bankruptcies earlier this month. Foodable Network has an interview with Elizabeth Blau (from the James Beard Foundation) about how things are looking out for the next couple months.

Things are still looking really unstable for us. Here’s hoping now that a new federal administration is on the way in things get better because right now surviving is all we can do.

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.

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!