By David Schuman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Hennepin County's restaurant industry has lost nearly 26,000 jobs compared to last year, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Now that the four-week dial back order is underway, there are concerns the losses will increase.

Starting Monday, small businesses in Hennepin County can apply for $13 million in grant money that was approved last week for distribution.

First-time applicants can receive $15,000. Non-first-time applicants can receive $10,000.

Suzanne Valecka, the owner of Honey and Mackie's Ice Cream in Plymouth, plans to apply for the grant. She has spent the last several days hard at work transforming her shop to meet the sudden demands of dialing back.

"We're no longer allowed to serve any type of cups or cones of ice cream, which is our primary business," Valecka said.

Honey and Mackie's must go takeout-only, and the tent and outdoor heaters Valecka bought to give customers a place to sit are now useless until the order's lifted.

"It's neither viable or profitable," she said. "We can't be in this model for very long just because it doesn't make sense financially."

Patricia Fitzgerald, Hennepin County's Community and Economic Development Manager, says the grant money is for food service establishments, gyms, and entertainment and event venues.

"We want to make sure that every business owner out there understands they have a fair chance," Fitzgerald said. "We'll be able to serve about 1,000 businesses with this new funding."

Davis Senseman, an attorney for small businesses, says Hennepin County has stood out for how quickly it's approved money to be distributed. They say the application shouldn't scare away any business owners either.

"The county's done a few rounds of these grants, and it's very straightforward," Senseman said. "It's not long."

The application opens at noon on Monday. Fitzgerald says it should take about 15 minutes to complete.

Click here to apply.

David Schuman

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