Unseasonable Warmth Brings Welcomed Boost for Duluth Breweries During Pandemic Winter

Staff at Ursa Minor and Blacklist Brewing say the warm weather is bringing many customers to sit outside, and inside.

DULUTH, Minn.- Small breweries across Duluth say the unseasonably warm temperatures — pushing 50 degrees in some places Sunday — has brought their businesses closer to normal than they’ve ever felt in the past year.

“It has been nice to do things back to, quote-unquote, ‘normal,’” said Niki McArthur, Bartender and Pizza Oven Tender at Ursa Minor Brewing.

It looked and felt like spring in the Northland Sunday, and the patio at Ursa Minor in Duluth’s Lincoln Park was full of people enjoying the sun.

“The warmer weather’s really helped out business a lot,” McArthur said. “So we’ve expanded our patio a little bit into the parking lot just to allow for more space. So we’re not conflicting with our capacity.”

Now they also use the patio as a place customers can comfortably wait for a table inside. That wait can be long with the added traffic, which also gives the employees more work.

“We’re busier in that we’re staffing more, so we’re all getting our fair share of hours,” said McArthur. “And it’s been nice to work with a whole team and crew again, versus just two people.”

Meanwhile, Downtown the sound of axe-blades hitting wood once again filled the space at Blacklist Brewing Company on Superior Street Sunday.

“Friday through Sunday we’re booked for our axe lanes, we’re pretty much at capacity rest of Friday, most of Saturday,” said Taproom Lead Ray Mindestrom. Axe-throwing must be booked a year in advance, and he says they’re full for the next week or so.

“So I think, you can see today, we only have a few tables open so it’s been really good,” he said.

Nice weather is has even been bringing business to breweries without outdoor seating Downtown, like Blacklist. “It’s a little frustrating when you can’t have the patio open but it’s definitely brought a lot more people in,” said Mindestrom.

According Mindestrom, they plan to open up the small patio outside the brewery very soon. Still, business has been up about 50 percent.

“With the capacity setup and the way that we have things done inside it’s honestly been some record months for us,” he said. “There’s more people walking around Superior Street so it’s been really good for us.”

But staff at both breweries say mother nature is not the only one to thank for getting Northlanders outside.

“I’m sure the vaccinations are starting to help, people are getting more and more comfortable about begin out in the public, too,” said Mindestrom.

And with summer bringing warmer temps and tourists, they hope that trend can continue. “As long as things keep going the way they’re going with the world I think we’ll be alright,” McArthur said.

So they’re getting used to the sight of glasses and seats filling — a promising sight, after a dark year.

“I absolutely love having my people back in the bar,” Mindestrom said. “I think it’s just, Downtown’s gonna keep getting better.”

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