Founder of Hell's Kitchen explains challenges restaurants face ahead of reopening

Gov. Tim Walz is expected to announce a phased plan of how bars and restaurants can safely reopen with a target date of June 1 Wednesday.

Although many owners have been desperate to open their doors for weeks now, some aren’t comfortable with taking that step.

Cynthia Gerdes, the founder of the popular restaurant Hell’s Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis, says she won’t be open for dine-in customers anytime soon. She says it’s both a financial and health decision.

The restaurant is normally bustling with people, but right now there is nobody to be found. That’s why Gerdes says she will not be resuming operations anytime soon.

“We finally had to make a decision, 'which way are we going to go?' and the decision was not to open yet. We are not confident yet, so come down to Hell’s Kitchen and help us when we open.”

As the Walz administration is expected to announce new guidelines, many owners face a challenge. Some just have to open, or they will permanently close. Others, like Hell’s Kitchen, are concerned it might be too costly to open at just 50 percent capacity.

“Financially, it didn’t make sense. Safety wise, it didn’t make sense; customers didn’t make sense,” Gerdes said. “I don’t feel safe out there yet and that’s what the fourth thing is: Do we feel safe out there? And we don’t.”

Gerdes and her daughter - who owns the next door bakery, Angel Food - say their business really relies on the foot traffic of downtown. With corporate offices still teleworking, conventions and sporting events on hold, delivery and take out is their best option right now.

Gerdes says her rent is still $42,000 a month with hardly any utilities operating.

“We can’t lose more money than we already are losing. We are bleeding, we did get our PP funds, so that’s going to be our back up, but we aren’t even open so how are we going to use it on labor? Everything is just falling apart, but I feel like it’s going to come back together,” he said.

The owners of Hell’s Kitchen just celebrated their 18th anniversary of being in business. They hope by waiting a bit longer they can open their doors for dine-in customers sometime in September.