The scraping of glass could be heard up and down Nicollet Mall as business owners and building managers began to clean up Thursday after a night of riots left a large swath of the shopping and dining thoroughfare vandalized.
While many downtown Minneapolis businesses sustained only minor damage — some even able to reopen Thursday — for others the damage is just the latest substantial setback they have had to overcome this year.
Brit’s Pub was one of the most damaged businesses.
“Looters were stealing anything they could get their hands on from food, liquor, TVs, [point of sale] equipment and kitchen equipment,” said Kam Talebi, owner of Brit’s Pub. “The inside of the restaurant is completely trashed.”
He vowed to rebuild.
The most significant sign of the Wednesday night rioting was boards being put up as broken glass was swept away all along Nicollet Mall, the main pedestrian and shopping thoroughfare in downtown.
The sudden violence resulted from false information about a suspect police were pursuing. The suspect died by suicide, but the crowd gathered, believing it was a police shooting.
The quick escalation and number of people involved in the destruction showed Minneapolis remains on a hair trigger three months after the police killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed Black man. His death sparked protests as well as violent riots and fires that damaged hundreds of businesses in Minneapolis and St. Paul — many that were destroyed or are still in significant disrepair.
On Wednesday night, more than two dozen businesses reported property damage, including the headquarters building of Target Corp., national chains such as Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off 5th and small businesses like Brit’s Pub and the Lotus Restaurant.
Brit’s, at 11th Street and Nicollet, could be closed for months after damage from both looting and a fire that did significant damage to one end of the building.
Talebi, who bought the restaurant a year ago, said workers ushered customers out of the restaurant and patio around 8 p.m. after crowds and protests swelled.
He said there was no police presence as his bar was being destroyed.
He is uncertain about when he can reopen and concerned about the short-term future of the restaurant’s 70 employees.
“It’s disheartening with the financial hard times and the pandemic that they have to deal with this, too,” he said. “I don’t know what to tell them, but we will take care of our employees.”
Restaurants and many of the stores were required to close in the spring as the state tried to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The unrest that followed Floyd’s killing came just as they were able to reopen.
Haskell’s Wine and Spirits on 9th Street had escaped damage or looting during the May riots. The windows then had been boarded up as a preventive measure. On Wednesday, though, the windows were smashed.
“At about 7:45 [after the store had closed] the staff heard pounding on the windows and the glass was breached, so the four employees in the store at the time kind of panicked and holed up in the beer cooler,” said Ted Farrell, president of Haskell’s. “Fortunately, a squad car pulled up within five minutes so everyone dispersed.”
The store was closed Thursday for repairs to two large windows and the front door panels. It will reopen Friday with hours to be determined.
Yoom Nguyen, whose family owns the Lotus Vietnamese restaurant near Loring Park, voiced his frustration with the riot and posted pictures on Facebook of his family restaurant with its windows smashed in.
“Most of the damage that’s done to small businesses like ours are fixed and paid for by the owners,” he wrote.
The management of the IDS Center, the biggest building and central crossing of downtown Minneapolis, decided to open only to its commercial tenants on Thursday.
Nordstrom Rack and Hubert White stores both had windows smashed, as did the main entrance to the center.
“The [police] were getting us accurate and clear info so we could stay as safe as possible. I have nothing but good things to say about Minneapolis Police and how they handled this,” said Deb Kolar, general manager of IDS, in an e-mail. “This is just like last time where pockets of [disorder] erupted here and there. They [the police] did everything they could do to stay on top of it last night.”
Bob White, president of the 104-year-old menswear store Hubert White at IDS, said four of his windows were broken and had been boarded up.
“There were three of us in the store when it started, and we were watching it,” White said.
The store was not looted, but he expected it would be closed the rest of the week.
Jim Durda, general manager of the City Center retail and office complex on Nicollet, said the most important thing was people’s safety.
“It’s really unfortunate. We had this loss of life yesterday, two lives lost,” Durda said, referring to the man who shot himself and the homicide victim he was suspected of killing. “We are a big city with big-city problems and mental health issues, so there are broader issues to tackle.”
In earlier unrest after Floyd’s death, there was a lot more damage to the building. “This time it was only three windows at Starbucks and Saks [Off Fifth],” Durda said.
City Center — and the Marshalls in it — were open Thursday.
Minneapolis-based Target had several stores with significant damage in the May riots — including the Lake Street store, which won’t open for several months. On Wednesday, the Nicollet Mall flagship store was damaged and merchandise stolen; it was closed until noon Thursday for cleanup.
“Our first priority was keeping our team members and guests safe, and no one was injured in the building,” the company said, in a Thursday morning statement.
The corporate headquarters at the corner of Nicollet and 10th Street also were damaged. External windows were smashed and a small group of people broke into the basement mailroom and started a fire, the company said.
Steve Cramer, chief executive of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, was out early Thursday to assess the damage. He called downtown businesses resilient.
“We’ll bounce back from this,” he said. “It’s a tough blow, though. I think there’s a lot of discouragement about this. On top of everything else that’s happened this summer since Memorial Day and the killing of George Floyd, it really calls into question how we’re going to come together as a community. That’s the challenge we have in front of us right now.”
While the worst damage was along Nicollet Mall, rioters also damaged an Avis and Budget car rental on South 10th Street and a Walgreens miles away on Chicago Avenue at E. 43rd Street.
Target stores in Uptown and Dinkytown also sustained minor damage, the company said.
The Lunds & Byerlys Wine & Spirits store on Harmon Place received minor damage and was closed Thursday. The main store was fine. However, hours at the three Minneapolis Lunds will be reduced through Saturday as a precaution, said spokesperson Katie Tomsche.
It still remains to be seen what the long-term impact to the unrest will be to downtown businesses moving forward.
Although he plans to reopen Brit’s, Talebi said the government needs a plan to deal with violent acts.
“Downtown residents and businesspeople count on that leadership,” he said. “I just hope they find a plan and get something in place to rebuild the city and bring safety back.”
Includes reporting by staff writers Dee DePass, Jim Buchta and Adam Belz.