Dec 2, 2021 - Business

Where are all the Twin Cities 24-hour diners?

Neon sign saying Open 24 hours
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If you're looking for a place to sit down and grab some grub at 2am in the Twin Cities, you might be out of luck.

What's happening: From Mickey's to Uptown Diner, the metro is losing its round-the-clock diners as COVID-19 safety concerns and labor shortages continue to challenge the restaurant industry.

Why it matters: Local diners are late-night institutions — a staple of graveyard shift workers, college students and night owls in need of hot coffee and a plate of eggs and bacon.

State of play: Every independently owned 24-hour diner in the Twin Cities has reduced hours or restricted dine-in service since the start of the pandemic. For some, there's no return to normalcy in sight.

  • Nicollet Diner, Minneapolis' only 24-hour restaurant operating all 365 days of the year, decided in August to only offer delivery and takeout from 2-6am.
  • Less than 2 miles away is Uptown Diner, which was open for 24-hour dine-in service Thursdays-Saturdays before the pandemic. It switched to only carry-out from 10pm-6am for the first time in decades last year due to COVID-19.
  • Mickey's Diner in St. Paul temporarily closed in December 2020 due to pandemic-related financial issues. Meanwhile, Mickey's Diner by Willy, which is under different ownership, cut overnight hours last month because of staffing shortages.

Of note: Two suburban locations of national diner chain Perkins are open 24 hours.

What they're saying: "Overnights are still our bread and butter, but we closed our dining room due to public safety concerns," Nicollet Diner owner Sam Turner told Axios. "When you're the only thing that's open, riffraff gravitate towards that."

  • Turner noted that the diner made the decision following several shootings in the neighborhood this summer.

The other side: Uptown Diner generally hasn't faced such issues or staffing shortages, said owner John McCarty.

  • "We're open the hours we feel demand is highest," he said.

What's next: After raising more than $70,000 through GoFundMe, Mickey's plans to reopen next spring.

  • Uptown Diner is thinking about reviving overnight dine-in, McCarty said.
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