Minneapolis restaurant workers brace for second round of restrictions

A bartender at the Red Cow talks about how this newest round of restrictions will affect the business.

Employees of a downtown Minneapolis bar reacted to the Governor’s latest restrictions Thursday, which they say will be yet another blow to the business in a year of challenges.

Bartender April Kosuge was emotional reflecting on the year that saw her hours slashed for a period already. Now, she is facing a four-week shutdown of in-person dining at Red Cow restaurant in the North Loop, just as staff should be preparing for a busy holiday season.

“I feel like it would have super-sucked anytime, but yes, of course, it kinda makes it hurt a little more,” she said.

“This time of year you look forward to because a lot of people come out,” said Ken Lauer, a Red Cow server. “And they’re much more generous. You get larger tips percentage-wise.”

Lauer and Kosuge are just two of Red Cow’s current 270 employees across six metro area restaurants. At its peak before the pandemic, management reported Red Cow had about 450 on its payroll.

“Yeah, this one hurt,” said Michael Giacomini, the Red Cow’s Director of Finance. He says he hopes the strong takeout business sustains them over the next month.

“If we were able to bring back all of our employees right before Christmas, I think it would be a great Christmas present for everyone,” he said.

Gov. Tim Walz ordered the shutdown in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 as hospital beds fill up and COVID-19 case counts spike.

Health officials singling out bars and restaurants because of the potential for outbreaks where customers gather and socialize indoors for longer periods of time often without keeping masks on.

Those in the industry insist it can operate safely and pleaded for government financial assistance as well as neighborly help in the weeks ahead.

“If you can swing it, like maybe one-to-two meals a week, order out,” said Kosuge. “Otherwise, my fear is it’s all going to fail. So many people are going to fail.”

Bars and restaurants can continue to operate takeout and delivery services, but cannot serve in-person customers. This includes outdoor and patio dining.

The shutdown goes into effect Friday, Nov. 20 at 11:59 p.m. and runs through Dec. 18. The Governor's Office is calling it a Four-Week Dial Back.