From despair to hope, 1 year after bars closed

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It was the day before St. Patrick’s Day, 2020, when Governor Tim Walz addressed the state and said restaurants and bars were not allowed to open the next day – canceling any festivities and sending the hospitality industry into a spiral.

"We went into crisis mode," Liz Rammer, president and CEO of Hospitality Minnesota, said.

"One year later we know a lot more than we did then," Rammer added. "It was like drinking out of a fire hose, everybody together trying to figure out what’s what."

One of Hospitality Minnesota’s biggest roles is to offer guidance for operators when it’s needed. But there were a couple problems: this has never happened before and there was much uncertainty about the near future.

"So many of these small businesses, they’re small businesses, they don’t have deep pockets," she said. "This is not a high margin industry, it’s a high love industry,"

Numbers show how detrimental the year was. According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), from March to April 2020, 91,860 people who worked at businesses connected to eating and drinking lost their job. As of January 2021, 38,243 jobs were added in that field.

Minnesotans celebrate a different kind of St. Patrick’s day amid COVID-19 pandemic

But, some of those jobs will never come back. According to DEED, from April to September the state lost 132 places to eat and drink.

The next month, in October 2020, Bardo in Northeast Minneapolis closed.

"It was almost exactly what I wanted it to be from the very beginning. It was a magical place," Remmy Pettus, former owner of Bardo, said.

"We tried to come back, we tried to reinvent," Pettus said. "There was no telling how long it was going to last."

Pettus said the decision to close was not easy, but still came with relief and was followed by mourning. Even so, Pettus has started to move on and is looking forward to the future. Pettus is part of an episode of Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay. The episode will air locally Thursday night at 7.

As Walz loosens restrictions, more people get vaccinated, and more restaurants open back up, steps towards a stronger industry are taken.

One of those fortunate enough to stay in business is the Lake Elmo Inn, which recently reopened after closing temporarily on November 18.

Ready for Easter Sunday with his two 50 pound chocolate rabbits and other décor, owner and chef John Schiltz says this reopening almost didn’t happen.

"These are all local people. They’ve missed this place so much and we’ve missed them," Schiltz said to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS while standing at the busy bar.

Help from the federal government played a big role in the inn’s vitality. As it continues to operate, Schiltz hopes guidance from the state stays consistent and more detailed.

With an adjusted menu, a masked staff and a feeling of rejuvenation, Schiltz is cautiously optimistic it’ll only be better days ahead.