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Restaurant owners sue city of Minneapolis, Mayor Frey over response to unrest

The Town Talk Diner & Gastropub was damaged during the riots and vandalism that followed the death of George Floyd.
Credit: Town Talk Diner
The Town Talk Diner & Gastropub was one of a number of businesses that burned during riots that followed the death of George Floyd.

MINNEAPOLIS — The owners of a popular south Minneapolis restaurant are suing the city and Mayor Jacob Frey over what they characterize as an insufficient response to the unrest, rioting and destruction that followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. 

Kacey White and Charles Stotts, owners of the Town Talk Diner and Gastropub, filed their lawsuit in Hennepin County District Court Monday. The legal action alleges that Frey and other leaders did not act decisively to protect city business owners and residents from vandals that looted, damaged and destroyed property and livelihoods. 

"Mayor Frey and the City failed to react to the seriousness of the riots and danger to Minnesotans and they failed to comply with policies to confront and stop the rioters," the lawsuit reads. "As a result of Mayor Frey and the City's failed leadership, Kacey and Charles suffered damages in excess of $4,500,000.00."

The lawsuit says Town Talk was first damaged and looted the night of May 27, when vandals ignored pleas by city leaders to leave the neighborhood and "took over Lake Street." Kacey and Charles say they went to their restaurant the morning of May 28 and found the destruction to their restaurant "far worse than they could have imagined, with windows broken and the interior burned. They boarded the restaurant up to prevent further damage. 

On May 29, the lawsuit alleges, "Mayor Frey failed to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation and failed to confront the lawlessness" of violent rioters, and the decision was made to abandon the Minneapolis Police third precinct. 

"Mayor Frey made the decision to evacuate the Third Precinct, removing police officers from the neighborhood, and leaving the citizens of Lake Street to defend themselves and their property," the lawsuit reads.

In the hours that followed the historic building that houses Town Talk Diner was burned to the ground, as were many businesses in the neighborhood. 

Credit: Town Talk Diner
When they returned to their restaurant the morning after police abandoned the third precinct, the owners of Town Talk Diner found their business reduced to rubble.

The lawsuit concludes by saying Kacey and Charles suffered losses including their building, restaurant revenues, and future income. They are asking for a jury trial, and actual damages in excess of $4.5 million. 

On Wednesday, the city of Minneapolis released a statement by City Attorney Jim Rowader disputing the allegations made in the lawsuit. 

Mayor Frey took quick and decisive action, requesting the support from the Minnesota National Guard immediately upon the Police Chief’s request to do so and as soon as there was any discernible risk of civil unrest and damage to neighborhoods and businesses. 

Likewise, that same evening the Minneapolis Police Department submitted a detailed request outlining scope of the need and a mission plan for the additional support. The City has provided plaintiffs with these documents, and we are hopeful that they will amend their complaint given this clear and documented evidence. 

The City Attorney’s Office stands ready to vigorously defend this lawsuit.

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