By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Downtown Minneapolis is at risk of losing dozens of businesses.

Cruising through downtown Minneapolis is not what it once was. On some stretches the largest city in the state looks more like a ghost town.

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“This is by far the biggest challenge that I’ve ever had in my 20 years of owning businesses downtown,” said Erik Forsberg, who owns Devil’s Advocate and two other downtown restaurants. They’ve been closed since COVID-19 started and crime multiplied.

A new survey by the Downtown Council shows 45 business owners say they are considering leaving downtown – citing the lack of people working or socializing downtown – and the idea that the police department could be dismantled.

Though they won’t say which businesses are considering pulling out of downtown, the council says one of the businesses employs 600 people.

That could mean a lot of empty spaces.

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“We are seeing a lot of restaurants take a hit right now,” says realtor Kris Lindahl. He says to expect shared kitchens for restaurants and smaller spaces in general.

“We are seeing business owners wanting to eliminate the overhead, especially in a world where it looks like there’s going to be a more hybrid approach happening – and people are going to be  working from home – business owners and companies are looking to downsize,” he said.

“I very much am trying to fight through this,” said Forsberg. He is calling on his fellow business owners to stay the course while charting a new one.

“The community leaders, business leaders, everyone needs to sit down at the table and decide what a new Minneapolis is gonna look like,” said Forsberg.

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The president of the Downtown Council, Steve Cramer, explained to council members that the mention of no police department has deterred business owners. Cramer believes there will still be police in downtown, but they will also have additional crisis support.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield