Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey hoisted a glass of 5-Weight cream ale in a toast Saturday afternoon before a crowd at Lakes & Legends Brewing Co. in Minneapolis.
"Downtown is back and it is open!" Frey exclaimed.
The event marking the brewery's sixth anniversary was also billed as a celebration of business resurging in downtown Minneapolis. The fact that people filled the tap room shoulder-to-shoulder seemed to support Frey's claim.
The crowd was a big improvement over last year, when the family-owned brewery had to skip publicly celebrating its fifth anniversary because of the pandemic, said co-owner and co-founder Derrick Taylor.
On Saturday, attendees — after showing a vaccination card or negative COVID test results at the door — were free to grab a beer or browse around tables of jewelry, candles and other items presented by the Minneapolis Craft Market.
Speaking to the crowd, Taylor gave shout-outs to a handful of nearby businesses in the Loring Park neighborhood who've supported each other as they work to return to business as usual.
"It takes a village, and our village is Loring Park!" Taylor said.
Of course, downtown Minneapolis isn't entirely back. An upturn in coronavirus cases has hindered, for the time being, any hoped-for "back to normal."
"I don't think there's a mayor in the country that doesn't wish their cities were coming back faster," Frey said in an interview. "The reality is, it will be a series of little bursts."
A "Minneapolis Downtown Reanimation" report updated last week shows downtown's largest office buildings about 41% occupied. Light-rail ridership, systemwide, was 45% of what it was during the same period before COVID, the number of seated diners in Minneapolis restaurants was 53% of the same period prepandemic, and hotels reported about 39% occupancy in late October, according to metrics monitored and regularly updated through a partnership between the Minneapolis Downtown Council, BOMA Greater Minneapolis, Meet Minneapolis and Minneapolis Federal Reserve.
But one positive sign Frey mentioned, echoing what Taylor suggested, is that "a greater degree of collaboration between businesses themselves" is helping accelerate a comeback.
Business owners are working among themselves to attract people to their parts of the city, Frey said, creating "a density of hospitality" that can lead to a "two plus two equals five" outcome.
Meanwhile, the public is welcoming the opportunity to get out there, he said.
"People are looking to have experiences again — being out with people enjoying one another," Frey said.