It was a welcome change as customers indulged in mango juice and imported dates at Java Coffee Thursday night after a long summertime day of Ramadan fasting.
Java Coffee and a growing number of Minneapolis businesses are taking advantage of the city’s new flexibility that allows them to stay open later during the holy month.
Java Coffee on Minnehaha Avenue is welcoming customers until 4 a.m. Before, the business had to close its doors at 11 p.m. With the sun setting at 9 p.m. in June, famished customers had little time to break their sunrise-to-sundown fast.
After being approached by Minneapolis business owners about the challenges they face during Ramadan, City Council Member Andrew Johnson proposed amending an ordinance to give businesses temporary extended hours.
The amendment brings relief to many businesses that were suffering financially during the month of Ramadan, said Ilhan Omar, Johnson’s senior policy aide.
Johnson agreed. “It enables small businesses to be more successful and have more customers in the door,” he said.
Ramadan is the holy month when Muslims pray and fast throughout the day, and break the fast after sunset.
Johnson’s amendment to the ordinance is not limited. Under the license, businesses can keep their doors open later for a period of 35 days. Each business is required to fill out an application, pay a $70 fee, provide a noise plan and submit a security plan to their local police precinct. There is no restriction on the time that businesses can remain open.
Osman Warsame, 23, and his family own Java Coffee and spent all day fasting and prepping the buffet for late-night customers at their Somali restaurant.
Warsame said the license helps stabilize the business, which would otherwise lose customers if they had to close earlier. “It creates a flexibility,” he said.
Coffee shop open til 2 a.m.
Restaurants and shops that cater to the Minneapolis Muslim community sometimes only operate for a few hours a day during Ramadan because their customers are fasting. At sunset, locals look for an open Halal restaurant to break the fast if they do not have a meal awaiting them at home.
Salama Coffee on Bloomington Avenue got permission to stay open until 2 a.m.
On Thursday, more than 20 men were gathered at the shop talking and eating bowls of fruit.
Owner Mohamed Abdi said Muslims will head over to his shop right after prayer because his business is within walking distance of the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center.
Keeping a business running during the day for Ramadan is not profitable, Abdi said.
“The restaurants and coffee shops close in the daytime because no one is coming to buy something from you,” he said. “That’s why we require extended hours in the night.”
More are seeking licenses
Businesses can still file for temporary licenses. Grant Wilson, Minneapolis business license manager, said five licenses were finalized earlier in the week and more are in the pipeline.
Islam follows a lunar calendar, which means that the observance of Ramadan moves every year. Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota Council on American-Islamic Relations, said this Ramadan has some of the longest days, with about 16 hours of daylight. Allowing businesses to operate later will accommodate more Muslims.
“A lot of businesses provide meals for people who have been working all day and didn’t have time to prepare a meal,” Hussein said.
For Minneapolis transplants and late-night workers, local businesses such as Java Coffee are a home away from home.
“A lot of people don’t have families cooking back home,” Sahra Ereg, a 23-year-old Minneapolis resident, said. “My mom is fasting for 22 hours in Sweden.”
Mahad Jama, a 40-year-old New Brighton resident, arrived at Java Coffee from his business Accord Medical, Inc. Jama said he didn’t want his wife to worry about cooking a big meal for Ramadan, so he went to Java instead.
Because they are staying open later, Jama can take his time to talk with friends and relax after a long day of work and fasting. Jama said he appreciates the city’s efforts to assist its diverse population.
“It goes to show the leadership of the city,” he said. “We’re very thankful.”