Sep 15, 2021

Axios Twin Cities

Good morning! It's Wednesday.

  • ☀️ Sunny and 75 today. Soak up September in Minnesota.

⚡ News flash: A Hennepin County judge has rejected the latest language for the Minneapolis police charter amendment, throwing the future of the ballot measure into question just days before early voting begins.

  • The pro-amendment campaign is appealing the decision.

Today's newsletter is 953 words — a 3.5 minute read.

1 big thing: The downtown scene

Mary Tyler Moore is still feeling lonely downtown. Photo: Nick Halter/Axios

Downtown Minneapolis appeared more alive last week than it's been in the past 18 months. Yet, the city's central business district remains a shell of its former self, despite workers trickling back into offices all summer.

  • Nick, who worked downtown for more than 10 years pre-pandemic, assessed the streets and skyways last Wednesday.

State of play: Retailers and restaurants that rely on downtown workers had hoped last week would mark a major return, that is until the Delta variant disrupted everything.

  • One employee of a downtown office tower told Nick that building staff prepared for a big wave of workers called back to the office, but then several employers delayed their returns, school bus companies couldn't find drivers and parents grew uncertain about potential outbreaks at schools and day care centers.

By the numbers: About 36% of workers were back in the office as of early September, according to Minneapolis Downtown Council.

  • That's reflected in the skyways, where Nick counted 76 storefronts and found only 43% of them open. That's a slight improvement from a similar count Nick did in May, when 39% were in operation.

So who is back? While big employers with hundreds or thousands of workers have put off their returns, small, local companies — think law firms — have been back for weeks or months.

What's new: There are some good signs! Several restaurants had long lines, including both Green & The Grain locations, Jimmy John's and Skyway Wok. A Caribou Coffee shop in Fifth Street Towers had a sign on the window saying it would reopen on Sept. 15  — today — for the first time since the pandemic hit.

  • With less competition, some of the restaurants that are open are seeing strong business — though it's uneven, as several had few customers.
  • People are moving back. The apartment vacancy rate in downtown had shot up to 10.4% early this year, but the Star Tribune reported this week that it's back down to 7.2%.

Yes, but: While there was action in the skyways, the streets were eerily empty, considering the beautiful weather.

  • And who can blame people when so many street-level restaurants have remained closed and the food trucks that used to fight for parking spots are nowhere to be found?
2. The Spoon: Chew on this news

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

❌ Minnesota House Democrats expelled Rep. John Thompson from the DFL Caucus Tuesday, citing "credible reports of abuse and misconduct and his failure to take responsibility" for his actions. He maintains he won't resign.

❓ Minneapolis mayoral candidate AJ Awed is questioning why he wasn't invited to a Wednesday debate featuring established candidates, noting that he's a top fundraiser so far. (Star Tribune)

⚖️ Derek Chauvin and three other former MPD officers accused of violating George Floyd's civil rights pleaded not guilty to federal charges. (Axios)

🏠 The University of Minnesota is banking more land near its campus, buying a frat house at 814 Essex St. SE to build a clinical research facility. (Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal)

3. You can buy Minnesota's best doughnut shop

Photo: Google Images

Minnesota's best doughnut shop is for sale.

What's happening: The owner of Lindstrom Bakery, located in its namesake city about 50 miles northeast of the Twin Cities, is looking to sell so she can retire after 48 years in business.

Flashback: As we reported back in February, Food & Wine magazine included Lindstrom on its list of best doughnut sellers in every state.

What they're saying: A listing, posted by J.H. Callahan & Associates, touts a "turn-key" shop with "excellent branding and name recognition."

What we're hearing: Fans of Scandinavian doughnuts don't need to fret about an imminent closure. Listing broker George Novak told Torey owner Bernie Coulombe intends to keep the bakery open until they find someone to take on the business.

  • A few potential buyers have reached out, but nothing has come through yet, he said.

The asking price? $485,000.

Share this story.

4. Chart du jour: COVID-19 and teens
Expand chart
Data: Minnesota COVID-19 Response; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

More than 54% of Minnesotans ages 12-17 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine so far.

Why it matters: Vaccines can help protect kids from getting seriously sick as they head back to class.

What's next: Pfizer said Tuesday it expects to have trial results needed to ask the FDA to provide emergency use authorization for kids 5-11 in the coming weeks.

  • A request for those as young as 6 months could come by the end of October.
5. Butcher & the Boar finds a new home

Butcher & the Boar's website on the reopening. Screenshot via Butcherandtheboarmpls.com

Butcher & the Boar is reopening, but it won't be in the old Hennepin Avenue space.

Driving the news: Jester Concepts, the group behind Borough, Parlour and P.S. Steak, is reviving the whiskey and smoked meat restaurant in the North Loop, at 901 3rd Street N.

Flashback: Butcher & the Boar closed last year, citing the pandemic and loss of customers downtown. Jester Concepts bought the brand and recipes from the old owners.

  • CRAVE owners Kaskaid Hospitality bought the Hennepin Avenue building and opened The Butcher's Tale, hiring some of the original Butcher & the Boar chefs.

What they're saying: The new North Loop location, previously home to Mpls. St. Paul Magazine's office, will be designed by Shea, the same firm that designed the original location.

  • Expect "warm, rustic and inviting" vibes and ample parking, according to a Tuesday press release.
6. 🚲 One intense thing to go: Biking to Canada (and back)

The ride may be long, but the route is scenic. Photo courtesy of Chase Davis

The North Star Bicycle Race, a 629.4-mile ride from St. Paul to the Canadian border and back, kicks off today.

Details: Participants in the annual race, which started in 2018, aim to complete the ride unassisted. That means no roadside meals or water from friends or family.

The times to beat: The records are 44 hours, 50 minutes for men and 87 hours, 2 minutes for women.

How to watch: While you can't help the riders, you can watch and cheer them on in person or online. Track their progress at this link.

Looking for a read, watch or listen to help spice up your week? Here are a few things we've been enjoying lately. Send us yours!

📖 Nick is reading this book about a Minnesotan who was mauled by a grizzly bear on a Canadian canoe expedition at age 17 and survived.

🌊 Torey has been watching "100 Foot Wave," an HBO miniseries about big wave surfing.

🎵 Audrey has listened to "Woopie" off of Still Woozy’s latest album 53 times in the last 20 days.