FINNEGANS To Reopen Taproom For St. Patrick’s Day
March 12, 2021 2:20 pm
Finnegan’s Brew Co. plans to end nearly four months of hibernation on St. Patrick’s Day, reopening its downtown Minneapolis taproom for the first time since Nov. 20. It’s a one-off event for the holiday and not yet a full reopening for the taproom, which Finnegan’s co-founder and CEO Jacquie Berglund said has been battling the pandemic restrictions […]
Finnegan’s Brew Co. plans to end nearly four months of hibernation on St. Patrick’s Day, reopening its downtown Minneapolis taproom for the first time since Nov. 20.
It’s a one-off event for the holiday and not yet a full reopening for the taproom, which Finnegan’s co-founder and CEO Jacquie Berglund said has been battling the pandemic restrictions on one front and perceptions that downtown is less safe on another.
“It’s more to lift our collective spirits,” Berglund said.
She said downtown hospitality operators are walking a fine line these days. Hopes that business will return to its pre-pandemic normal have been buoyed by promising news of Covid-19 vaccinations and what looks like the early arrival of spring. But they’re also aware that downtown could soon button up again, as property owners warily eye the upcoming trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
That’s a discouraging prospect for downtown hospitality operators, who are eager to see downtown workers return to the office — and their post 5 o’clock happy hour routines.
“We want to be one of the businesses standing up saying we want to support downtown,” Berglund said. “We want to stay open if we feel it’s safe to do so.”
March 17, the day of the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, is a resonant date for Minneapolis-based Finnegan’s, and not just because co-founder Kieran Folliard used to operate a mini-empire of Irish pubs.
The company, which donates all its profits to fight hunger, first opened its downtown brewery-taproom complex to the public on Mach 17, 2018. And March 17, 2020 was the day Gov. Tim Walz issued one of his first executive orders in response to the then-emerging pandemic, an order that forced bars and restaurants statewide to shut down in-person drinking and dining.
“Worst St. Patrick’s Day ever,” is how Berglund recalls it. That same day, she laid off the taproom’s entire staff, including herself.
The taproom, which has an expansive courtyard patio that allows for social distancing, reopened to customers this summer. Ultimately, she said, downtown’s safety issues may have had more of an impact on Finnegan’s taproom business than even the pandemic.
“My staff were scared to come to work. I had everyone parking behind the brewery. I didn’t want them to park in a ramp,” she said.
Berglund said she wasn’t comfortable any longer letting just a single employee staff the taproom’s patio. But adding a second worker raised labor costs to an unsustainable level, prompting this winter’s hibernation.
A full reopening could come in April, but Berglund said she’s not certain.
“It’s like throwing a dart at a dartboard, trying to forecast for the next year, honestly,” she said.
Berglund expressed confidence Finnegan’s would survive both the pandemic and downtown’s rough patch, citing the support she has gotten from business groups like the Minneapolis Downtown Council and Minneapolis Regional Chamber, as well as trade organizations like the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild and Hospitality Minnesota. But her reopening is still tied to the return not just of downtown office workers but events at nearby venues like The Armory, U.S. Bank Stadium and the Minneapolis Convention Center.
“That’s going to drive our decision-making, when those come back,” she said
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