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Restaurants optimistic about return to indoor dining

Hospitality Minnesota says shift to 50% indoor capacity "just in time" to stave off more closings.

MINNEAPOLIS — On the night before opening his doors to customers again, the owner of The Loop in Minneapolis wasn't sweating a patio washout.

"The weather didn't cooperate, but we're not focused on that at this point," said Ryan Brevig, owner of The Loop and five other Minnesota restaurants. "We're focused on things trending in the right direction for once."

Just three weeks ago, Brevig didn't see so many silver linings.

"Today was a huge gut punch," he told KARE11 on May 20th, following Governor Walz' announcement that restaurants would only be able to serve on patios on June 1st. "I felt sick to my stomach."

At the time, he and many other restaurant owners were upset and surprised that their plans to reopen indoor dining were pushed back. But since then, he managed to bring back some staff after the city helped him turn a loading dock into a patio. 

"We were able to go from six tables to 17," Brevig said. "It was surprisingly... decent. I'm not going to say good. We didn't pay any bills but it was busier than I thought it would be. As busy as you can be only using your outdoor seating."

That new-found optimism is shared by many across the state.

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"We're hearing a lot of relief and a lot of excitement," said Liz Rammer, President and CEO of Hospitality Minnesota.

Without indoor seating and expanded patio options, Rammer says Hospitality Minnesota braced for about half of all its member restaurants to close by July.

"We've already seen 97% of the operators laid off or furloughed their workers," Rammer said. "Nationally, our operators reported a 77% decline in sales, just in the first 15 days of May versus a year ago. This is, in many ways, just in time to get us started back on what will be a really long road to recovery."

"We've got our chins up," Brevig said. "We have a much more positive outlook right now."

Still, Brevig says the makeshift patio and 50% indoor seating are short term solutions.

"I think we can make that work for a period of time," he said. "What that is, I don't know exactly."

For now he'll focus on serving whoever he can.

"I'm not naive, I know there's a good chunk of the population that's in no hurry to come out and sit inside a restaurant, dining room," Brevig said. "That's okay. We'd love to see them down the line."

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