Lake Street business owners facing roadblocks in demolishing buildings destroyed in unrest

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Owners of businesses that were destroyed during civil unrest in the Twin Cities are facing roadblocks in demolishing them.

A state statute requires property taxes to be "fully paid" before removing any structure.

"It’s ridiculous to hold up demolition over that," said Minneapolis City Councilmember Andrew Johnson. "These are victims of civil unrest, and they’re just trying to rebuild their livelihoods and we should all be doing everything we can to support that. Unfortunately, state law gets in the way of that."

Johnson said the city would be violating state law if it issued demolition permits to business owners who have not paid those taxes.

Ruhel Islam, owner of Gandhi Mahal Restaurant along Lake Street, said his property taxes are estimated to be around $15,000. The restaurant burned down in the riots and has not been open since.

Islam said he has always paid taxes, but his restaurant currently has no cash flow and has lost about $100,000 per month being closed.

"Small policy change can make it better, make it more welcoming for us, easy for us," Islam said. "It’s been over two months and we are still able to see broken stuff here. It’s painful, very painful."

Lake Street fund provides $2.8 million to businesses so far, more to come

Nearly 1,500 buildings in the Twin Cities were damaged in the riots by fire, looting and vandalism, according to the governor’s recent request for a federal disaster declaration.

A spokesperson for the City of Minneapolis said about 20 buildings have already been torn down and a number of others still need to be demolished.

Johnson said the city has reached out to state lawmakers to change the law. He said an amendment to waive the tax payment requirement was included in the bonding bill, which failed during the special session.

"Common sense is that this situation is so terrible and we should be doing everything we can to help these small business owners rebuild and recover," Johnson said. "All of us at city hall want to be able to see these demolitions proceed and these business owners get back on their feet as quickly as possible."