ST PAUL, Minn. — A Twin Cities chef and restaurant owner will testify in Congress on Tuesday, to share a firsthand account about how local crime has impacted his businesses, staff and customers.
Chef Brian Ingram, Founder and CEO of Purpose Driven Restaurants, says Representative Tom Emmer asked him to testify before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, for a hearing titled, "Thoughts and Prayers are Not Enough: How Mass Shootings Harm Communities and Local Economies and Economic Growth."
Despite the title, Chef Ingram, who owns the Gnome Pub and Hope Breakfast Bar, says he won't be speaking about mass shootings, focusing instead on the ways crime of all kind has impacted his businesses, employees and customers. Since 2020, he says his businesses have been burglarized seven times.
Ingram spoke to KARE 11 reporter Kent Erdahl on Monday about his upcoming testimony and the perspective that he hopes to bring.
Kent Erdahl: "The hearing appears to be about mass shootings, but what are you hoping to speak to in your testimony?"
Chef Brian Ingram: "We'd like to talk more than just the mass shootings, as heartbreaking as those are, but just the crime and what has happened, economically, over the last couple years in the Twin Cities with the uptick in crime."
Erdahl: "We've previously spoken to you about multiple break-ins you've experienced at your restaurants."
Ingram: "We're up to seven break-ins at my businesses, and that doesn't include car-jackings, that doesn't include staff that have been assaulted on their way home. We've had one of our employees cars stolen out of the parking lot where a group of individuals came in, searched the employee room, found his car keys in his pocket and went out and stole the car, and for us it's really the brazenness of it."
As the owner of a restaurant called Hope, Ingram knows how it might look, speaking out about those struggles on the biggest stage.
Ingram: "As a business owner, this may be one of the stupidest things I could do because the last thing we want to do is to scare our guests or scare people that are coming to our restaurants. It's not good for business, but you have to stand for something or our cities aren't going to exist. The last thing we can afford to do is have more businesses and more people move out of our cities."
Erdahl: "Is there anything in particular that you're frustrated with, say the city of St. Paul, that has or hasn't happened in response to your break-ins?"
Ingram: "For me, it's really judges and what's happening with our prosecutors and what's happening with this kind of release that's been going on. For us, it's super frustrating when somebody robs us and they're out of jail within 24 hours and they come back and rob us again, and then the come back and rob us again...And something that really touched us personally, we lost our kitchen manager just a few, short months ago to a fentanyl overdose. We had his cell phone, we shared those messages with the police department and his drug dealer is texting back and he's saying, 'I think something is wrong.' And that drug dealer says, 'You'll be fine.' This man was 24 years old and he died that night. That drug dealer, we know who he is, we know where he lives, and he's still on the streets...The folks that are breaking the rules know that they can get away with it. That's not good for every day citizens."
Ingram says he doesn't believe that his message is a political, or partisan, statement, though he is well aware that he was invited to speak to Congress by a Minnesota Republican from outside his district.
Erdahl: "Are you worried at all about the politics of getting involved and going to Washington and lending your voice to something that, seems to be used right now in political campaigns."
Ingram: "I'm petrified of that, but I think everybody is afraid to even talk about it right now because it is so politicized. I vote Republican, I vote Democrat, I vote for people that I believe in and I trust in, and that's what I really hope our hometown understands through everything that we've tried to do over the last two years, that we're here to love our community and to love our community means that we have to take stands. I'm willing to do that. Our family is willing to do that."
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