As a local restaurant owner, with two businesses that have recently come off of our first self-imposed shut down due to a couple of positive COVID-19 cases, I can tell you that things aren’t pretty right now. Whether it’s worrying about the health and safety of our staff, or trying to make sure they can all pay their bills after missing much needed shifts, or keeping our own doors open due to days of no revenue, it is definitely no cake walk over here.
We need help, and we need it in the form of support from our local leadership. This support comes from positive actions such as continuing the liquor moratorium which allows the takeout of alcohol with the purchase of food, to putting up 15-minute parking signs in front of downtown businesses for to-go orders only. It also comes from things like enforcing the wearing of masks in public and limiting the gathering of large groups of people- two known factors in the spread of COVID-19. It does not however, come in the form of two of our supposed leaders attempting to rescind the mayor’s emergency powers while defiantly not wearing masks in City Hall, in order to prove some point like two spoiled children.
I have no doubt that to some extent the antics displayed by Commissioners Piepkorn and Gehrig at Monday’s City Council meeting were actually intended to show support for our local restaurants and bars…with a whole lot of political motivation sprinkled in for good measure. We need to see a united front right now, not a bunch of people pulling power plays and creating unnecessary drama with an eye on their political futures. We need all hands-on deck to get us through this with both the health of our citizens and our businesses intact. The last thing we need is a divide in leadership, such as the one that Gehrig and Piepkorn seem to be consistently encouraging and promoting these days. What a ridiculous lack of common sense, when our city and state are in crisis- a fact that neither side can deny. The reality is this pandemic does not care about your politics and neither do those of us who just want to make it through to the other side.
There was a point where Mayor Mahoney tried to leave it up to our community to do the right thing, and all that got us were higher rates of COVID-19 while we watched YouTube videos of bars packed with people on Halloween. Gehrig would argue that the government shouldn’t tell us what to do or help us financially for that matter. So where does that leave us exactly? There is no magical pandemic fairy who is going to wave a wand and make COVID-19 go away so until Piepkorn and Gehrig can provide us with some concrete solutions, then maybe just cool it on the heroics.
If these two really want to make themselves useful, why not look for ways to help our service industry employees who are paid hourly and truly are suffering the most right now? Why not spend that time you have together as leaders, coming up with ways to promote restaurants and bars over the holidays, or producing public service announcements about the power of gift cards and takeout orders, or any other thing that actually proves that you are attempting to serve those you have been elected by?
I don’t want to speak for all restaurants any more than I want the restaurants who don’t want to follow these guidelines speaking for me, but I will venture to guess that most of us sit somewhere in the middle on this whole thing. None of us wants to be shut down completely, but we also don’t want this to go on any longer than it needs to since this can and will result in an early death for many of our favorite small businesses if it hasn’t already. It is my belief that what our community needs most now, are strong leaders who can put aside their differences and work together to fight this thing and win.
Berglund is an owner of Luna Fargo and Sol Ave. Kitchen in Moorhead. Her family also owns and operates Bernie's Wines and Liquors in Fargo.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.