Baseball is back for Minnesota Twins fans, but downtown businesses still face challenges

The big screens at The Loon Café were doing something not yet seen this year.

On TVs hung from all angles around the bar, came the sights and sounds of Minnesota Twins baseball.

"It’s good to be back, it’s good to have baseball back," exclaimed Ryan Rush, of Minneapolis. "Hopefully, the area can do more business and stuff, doing things smart and everything."

And no one is happier than the café owner Tim Mahoney.

"We can still put 100 people in here, plenty of televisions, we are 365 steps from the ballpark," he smiles. "We’re as close as you’re gonna get without being inside.".

The Twins’ regular season was supposed to start back on March 26, the earliest season opener ever for the franchise.

Then, the pandemic came.

Mahoney is the first to admit, that with no team play thus far this season, it has been a struggle.

"It was devastating. We’re built on events," he says. "Over the last ten years, now the eleventh year since the ballpark was built and opened, it’s 70%, maybe 65% of our business. Baseball season."

Mahoney says he might have as many as 1000 customers on a typical home opener afternoon, more than 250 people in the bar at any one time.

But Covid-19 health restrictions require him to limit customer numbers to 100 inside.

And Friday night, for the season opener?

"We actually have maybe a half dozen to a dozen reservations," Mahoney says. "I’m assuming all those are people who will watch the game."

He isn’t alone.

Steve Cramer, the president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, says a normal home opener draws as many as 40,000 people.

But the abbreviated season means 81 regular games, instead of the normal 162.

Home games will be cut from sixty to thirty.

"Less games, no fans in the seats, and the economic impact just isn’t going to be there," Cramer says. "It’s exciting to have the Twins back on the field, they’re going to have a great year, but the economic impact, and the kind of feel downtown is going to be different this year, because of the impact of Covid."

Still, Rush and his buddy Patrick McGuire came down to the Loon Café to hang out— at least before the game.

"I honestly thought there would be more people out, which is understandable," he says. "It’s totally fine, but yep, you can definitely see the difference."

Mahoney has to adjust to the pandemic, by taking measures like cordoning off sections of the cafe, to keep customers safe.

He says Tuesday’s Twins home opener will be a crucial date in seeing how many fans will be coming downtown during the season.

And— he’s keeping his fingers crossed, that they will explore the area around the ballpark, to check out bars, restaurants, and other venues.

"We will be fine, but it’s going to be a struggle," Mahoney says. "Hopefully we can get through. Hopefully Tuesday will be a good crowd and we can build on that."