Range business owners share concerns about COVID limitations | www.WDIO.com

Range business owners share concerns about COVID limitations

Updated: October 06, 2020 09:23 PM

Deb Judnick and her husband have owned Eggy's Red Garter in Eveleth for 30 years. And they'd like to continue running it. But COVID is making things very difficult. "Of course, we don't want our customers to get sick. But are taking all the precautions."

She applied for a loan, but when she tried to get help about how to manage the paperwork. "I reached out numerous times, asking what should I do, should I keep the receipts?" she said. "And I got zero response."

She hosted a listening session on their outdoor patio on Tuesday afternoon. Other bar and restaurant owners shared their concerns about what they feel has been a lack of response from the state.

Margie Koivunen, who owns Margie's Roosevelt, said they feel left behind. "We've been told many many times before we are the backbone of our communities. Well I think you can see we've fallen through the cracks. And we want to know how Governor Walz is going to make us whole again." She's documented when she asked for help and when she got emails and responses back from the state.

Johnny Snidarich, one of the owners of Village Inn, is worried about losing employees. And he added there's the extra costs, like paper menus, which cost thousands of dollars.

The banks shared that people are asking for delayed payments and interest only payments because things are really tough.

Steve Grove, the commissioner of DEED, was at the front, listening to their concerns. He acknowledged the hospitality industry has been hit the hardest during the pandemic.

"It's heartbreaking and incredibly challenging," he told the crowd. "Are there things we can do to make things easier? Before we make that decision in St. Paul, we have to come out here to places like the Range and listen."

He said they are looking at the 6 person limit per table, especially with the holidays coming. Grove also a said a regional approach is not off the table. And he asked what capacity would be helpful. The business owners are pushing for higher than 50%.

He said messaging is key. "We want people to know it's safe to go out to restaurants, and that you folks are doing the sanitizing and know about the mask mandates," Grove added.

Representative Dave Lislegard helped organize the event. He empathizes with the small businesses on the Range, because it is a smaller area than the metro, "The less you have, the more they mean to you. We can't afford to lose any more," he said.

Grove added that a new federal stimulus package would help the state moving forward.

The city of Eveleth is working on a forgivable loan program. And the IRRR has money available in the Entrepreneur Fund.

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