Eveleth Bar Owner: ‘June 1st is Really the End of the Wire’

Owners of bars, restaurants, and other businesses met in Eveleth to discuss opening strategies, and share frustrations with the state's handling of things.

EVELETH, Minn.- Businesses across Minnesota are anxiously awaiting the Governor’s announcement Wednesday authorizing them to open June 1st, including up on the range in the small town of Eveleth that has a population of 3,596.

“Walz opening up on the first at a capacity of 25%? That’s. Not. Enough,” said one business owner.

Bar and restaurant owners in Eveleth said they’ve waited long enough. “The people are being hurt. They’re being hurt real bad,” said Mayor Robert Vlaisavljevich.

They gathered Tuesday to sit down with local officials to discuss what opening up will look like, should Governor Walz give the go-ahead for the beginning of June. “June 1st is really the end of the wire,” said Margie Koivunen, owner of Margie’s Roosevelt bar.

Some said it’s high time they open the businesses they’ve run themselves for years.

“I think people are going to start making moves. And I hope the state moves with them to help them out,” the Mayor said. “I trust the business owners to take care of things, police themselves, because that’s their customer base they’re protecting. And providing a safe haven for.”

While more concrete plans will be discussed closer to the opening date, ideas included switching to plastic cups, making hand sanitizer readily available, and constantly disinfecting surfaces.

“Safety has to be the #1 priority and I think for me and I think for a lot of my colleagues here, safety has always been important to us,” Koivunen said. “So now we really have to shine.”

Meanwhile, salons in the small town have also been making modifications to prepare for customers.

“We did take some COVID-19 testing and stuff to be certified so that people know when they came in that everything is sanitized and up to the code and cleaned very well,” said Heather Hill owner of Hair Force One Salon.

Business owner said they’ve been strapped for cash, since they don’t qualify for the same benefits as their employees.

“You’re an independent contractor you don’t get paid time off, you don’t get paid vacations, you don’t get FMLA, you don’t get, we struggle to get unemployment,” Hill said. “It was scary. It was very scary. I went 7-8 weeks without, am I going to have any money?”

And those benefits that workers do get–such as unemployment–are worth more, employers say, than they’re able to pay if they hire them back.

Despite allowing businesses to open up at limited capacity June 1st, Governor Walz has said he won’t hesitate to add more restrictions and ratchet back, should there be a surge in the virus.

But in Eveleth, many are saying less populated areas of the state shouldn’t be painted with that same broad brush.

“The Governor’s never been up here that I know of to really meet with any local elected people, so we’ve got no relationship with them or anything,” Mayor Vlaisavljevich said. “It’s just not the same all over.”

For in this small northern mining town, the one main street remains eerily empty.

“A ghost town feeling, it’s awful. It’s just awful,” said Koivunen.

So employers are anxious not just to get back to work, but back to serving the customers that mean so much to them.

“That’s your family away form home,” Hill said. “Just to do my job that’s what I’m here for. And I can’t be there for them. None of us can.”

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