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Not on My Menu

How COVID-19 is impacting restaurant risks | Insurance Business

I miss restaurants. I miss bars. I miss being spoiled by terrific servers and amazing chefs. I miss watching other people’s food arrive and having FOMO. I miss bantering with the servers, and wondering if they roll their eyes when they walk away or if they appreciate my wit and charm.

But.

I will wait to go to a restaurant until our Governor says it’s safe for me, the other patrons, and the people who work in them.

I dread opening my browser in the morning to see which wonderful eateries have shuttered their doors forever. My heart breaks when I see a restauranteur lament their life work’s demise. I fear for those servers who are no longer able to pay their bills.

But.

I will buy gift cards. I will order takeout directly from the restraunts, and avoid delievry services that take precious moey fron those who need it most. I will overtip.

I will not patronize restaurants who open in defiance of the Governor’s orders. As reported by Stephanie March of MSP Mag this week, 130 small businesses are discussing doing just that this week. I can only imagine the desperate fear those business owners are feeling. However, I don’t think it is right that they open prematurely.

I do think the government needs to do more to help them, on the local, state and federal levels. Make banks waive mortgage payments for three months (just tack the 3 months onto the end of the loans), so landlords can waive rent. Get some subsidies in there for servers, suppliers, etc. I think it’s pretty clear that if they reopen illegally, they will forfeit any relief. They may also make it worse overall for those in their community who will respectfully suffer through the restrictions.

March’s article quotes the organizer of the coalition as saying if people don’t feel safe, they don’t need to go to the restaurants. True, and fair. Servers do not have that luxury. If a restaurant reopens, they will put themselves at risk to do their jobs. These people do not typically have financial cushions (or if they did, they are long gone). Minimum wage workers do not have the luxury of staying home.

So it is with great sorrow and conflict that I say will not patronize any business opening illegally. I won’t get takeout from there, either. And I may find it really tough to ethically support them next summer when we may be back to a semblance of normal.

I hope we Minnesotans followed the rules enough during this last shutdown to allow Governor Walz to authorize a limited reopening next week. If so, yes: we will go out again. If not, we will be sad, but do our part.

Please, my favorite restaurants, and all those places that haven’t become my favorites yet, don’t risk everyone’s health by opening prematurely in desperation.

Same Island, Different Feel

Once again, when the calendar turned to Labor Day weekend, we packed the car and headed to Madeline Island, WI.

Our plan was to leave no later than 10am, which would put us at the ferry in Bayfield around 2:30, but HWSNBN got sucked into phone calls and couldn’t pack up the car. Usually I drive so he can do work calls and sleep, but this time it just didn’t happen. And normally, showing up late isn’t a big deal, as ferries typically run back to back about every 20-30 minutes. However: we received an email from our rental landlords (the wonderful Madeline Island Vacations) the night before, letting us know that winds were high and the last ferry would be around 8pm.

When I read the email, I wasn’t worried. That would be an exceptionally late time for us to arrive.

But as his calls lingered on and on and on, and the hours passed, I started getting concerned. We made good time on the drive up, but, as we approached Bayfield (where we catch the ferry), I suggested that he check the website and see if there had been any updates. Sure enough, the winds were really bad, and the last ferry was now going to be 5pm.

It was 4:30, and we were 40 minutes away.

HWSNBN started to panic, urging me to drive faster and faster. I sped up, but decided that even though I was the only car on a pretty straight, relatively flat country road, I wasn’t willing to break the sound barrier just because he was late leaving. I calmly asked him to start looking into places for us to stay the night. He refused. He called the ferry, hoping to ask them to wait. They didn’t answer. As we reached town, of course I had to slow down, which of course meant his heart raced faster. I pulled up to the ferry line where the boat was still docked, but there was a truck towing a trailer in line before us.

We sat, and waited, and wondered if they’d let us on.

The ferry people were walking around the truck and trailer, and the guy finally shook his head and motioned us forward. We got the last spot on the ferry, simply because trailer dude didn’t fit. We sailed across (with our ass hanging off the back of the boat, according to HWSNBN), not nearly as relaxed as we usually are on the ferry to Madeline. But there is nothing like it once you are there!

It was an unusual start to an unusual weekend. The island has five restaurants, and two were closed early for the season due to COVID-19. The others were take out only. The place was unusually busy, crowded with lots of new faces. I guess everyone needed a getaway, and you saw folks all over the island wandering around with maps. Which is really funny, because the island may be 14 miles long and 3 miles wide, but the business district can be walked end to end in 10 minutes.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s a lot to see and do. But, sadly, not as much as usual. Yeah, Tom’s Burned Down Café was open, but only allowed a few folks in at a time. You could get a garlic burger and Superman ice cream at Grandpa Tony’s, but you wouldn’t be sitting at a table with an oversized playing card signifying your order number.

As we ran into the map clutchers, we gently suggested they come back when the pandemic was settled, as the island usually has a much more vibrant energy .

As for us, we did just fine. We stayed at a new cabin this time, called Haven House, and it may just be our favorite ever. One of our friends asked if we get tired of staying at new places all the time, but not at all. It’s great finding new island treasures, and this one was fantastic.

HWSNBN and I usually go up on Thursday, while our friends follow the next day. So the first night we ordered take out from The Pub, opened a bottle of wine and played cribbage in front of the fire. It was a perfect kickoff to the weekend.

The next day I read a book outside while he hit a bucket of balls, and Stevie Nicks kept an eye on the local wildlife.

When our friends arrived on the island, we all grabbed takeout again, this time from Cafe Seiche, and ate it at their cabin. After dinner we played drinking games and let all our dogs run amok on the golf course (it’s a pretty casual place, is Madeline).

Saturday was golf for the fellas, and the beach for the dogs and the ladies.

Sadly, this was not a warm weekend. The windy theme that rushed us onto the island Thursday never let up. Our paddleboards didn’t get any use — they just enjoyed a nice roundtrip strapped to the top of the car. We hosted dinner that night, and finished the night by the bonfire.

This swing was great, in theory. We sat on it and it immediately fell to the ground. Maybe too many Spotted Cow beers and Dot’s Pretzels the day before?

Sunday was pretty much a repetition of Saturday — golf and beach, but with a little stroll downtown in the afternoon, including a visit to the charming Bell Street Gallery, which is always good for live music and an adult beverage, and, of course, lovely local art work. Then we meanedered back to enjoy a cocktail at The Pub’s fantastic new patio area (it’s not a Madeline Island trip without a Bootleg or two!).

The group all headed back to our place to play Kubb, a fun game at which I do NOT excel. then dinner at their place, with more laughs and dog merriment.

It’s a predicable weekend, and maybe that’s why we love it so much. We know we will eat, drink, laugh and run around after dogs. After the craziest 6 months the world has ever experienced, that’s all you really need.

Baby Steps Back

It seems the world is slowly waking from its COVID-coma, taking tentative steps into the light. I am not sure if it’s wholly a good thing, but I will be totally honest: I do like having more freedom.

We have been to restaurants — one dinner outside, one inside. We went to a brewery. We even had friends over for an INDOOR dinner party.

I got my nails done, and then, the following week, my hair.

I’ve had in person meetings, not just Zoom ones.

As a rule, we are a family of mask wearers. I hate going into a store or office and seeing people with bare faces. I have chosen to not continue patronizing a few places when I have seen the people working there without masks, and seeing the clientele without them. I have never told someone to put a mask on, but I have definitely felt aggression towards me from those who don’t wear them. I don’t get it.

But then, we have been guilty ourselves of breaking some COVID rules. We sadly attended a funeral wake last week, and not only did we not wear masks, we even hugged some people.

My daughter is socializing again, mostly with the same people. But I did allow her to go camping with these friends and several other new people. I felt massive guilt about it. I know that means I should have said no. That’s what I tell my kids: if you feel wrong about doing something, you shouldn’t do it. But I did.

Today I got to do something I haven’t done since February: see my Dad. In case you didn’t know, Dad has Alzheimer’s and lives in a care facility. His incredible home locked that shit down at the first sign of trouble — earlier than most — and has not had a single COVID case. Great in some ways, dreadful in others. Residents lived in their rooms, away from other residents and all group activities, for 4 months. Last week, they satrted allowing socially-distanced meetings: masks n, no touching, temperarure checks and hand sanitizer for all.

Because of her camping trip, Singer Girl did not come. Too risky.

But Mom and I did.

He looked the same — which isn’t great, but not worse. He didn’t fuss with his mask, but frankly I don’t think he was too cognizant of it.

I’m so glad we got to go — evn if it was tough hearing Mom apologize to Dad for not coming sooner, and trying to explain about this wretched virus.

We will definitely hop on the old Sign Up Genius to schedule another visit. As we left I told mom That when things shut down In March I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see him again. She agreed, and commented it was good that we got another memory. He even smiled and laughed for us at the end.

And that is a gift.

Sorrowfully Privileged

Dear friends and family not in Minnesota: we are, I am somewhat embarrassed to say, safe.

I woke up this morning forgetting for a few minutes what was going on 20 minutes from my home. This white woman, who, all her life, has been middle to upper middle class, was safe in her suburban home, worried more about whether she was going to get control of the weeds in her garden today than anything else.

Then I remembered the horror the Twin Cities is going through right now. Which in turn made me remember the horror peoples of color have endured for hundreds of years.

And I was ashamed on so, so many levels.

I was horrified and outraged when I heard the news and subsequently watched the footage of George Floyd being murdered. I turned to my husband and said “This is going to be bad.”

Clearly I understated things.

I also should’ve reminded myself at that moment that it had been bad before, even in a city and state that prides itself on being open, accepting, liberal.

I pride myself to have the same qualities, but I find myself wondering if I have ever done anything to perpetuate this injustice, even inadvertently? What can I do other than continue to be aware, and to point out when I see people acting wrongly. But in my desire to do the right thing, I find myself afraid to ask questions and state opinions.

Today I replied with much hesitation to a Facebook post made by an African American friend , Adrian Walton, who used to live in Minnesota. I must have typed and deleted and retyped my remarks a half-dozen times. I wanted to express how I felt, but was afraid I would come off as not understanding.

I wrote, “I can’t even look at the news. And I don’t know how to say anything — as a white, upper-class woman, I have no right to be angry or sad or outraged. Everything I say is wrong somehow. I know that the officers who filled Mr. Floyd are heinous individuals that should be jailed forever. I know that the protests were righteous. I can’t get behind the riots — and for that, I am told to check my privilege. I feel for the employees, the patrons, the small business owners, the people whose low-income housing is now gone. Somehow that makes me on the wrong side. I ask myself over and over — what can I do to help this never happen again? I try to be an open-minded person. I don’t like the idea of being blind to race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. I want to SEE it all for the beauty everyone’s unique diversity brings to the world around me. ”

Adrian graciously responded: “the best thing I would suggest is speak up against what you see is wrong and don’t conform to the rhetoric of staying quiet. What hurts me more is seeing my white friends quiet or mute on this issue yet they vocally speak against everything else. I believe, well I know others feel the same. The only way to help in this problem is buck the norm. I get killed when I speak out against blacks doing wrong… but I’m going to always speak what I believe and think is right or wrong. You may lose some friends but if they are your real friends then they know where you stand ethically and morally anyway. This situation won’t stop until more people of other races feel like you yet speak out against it and correct it when it’s wrong.”

I thanked him for his response, and cotinued:  I do feel…that …I am walking on eggshells when I speak in favor of a group I feel is being wronged, whether POCs, LGBTQ, Muslims, etc. Often there is eye-rolling, or you don’t understand, type comments. Of course, I don’t understand! But it doesn’t mean I don’t grieve or feel empathy or want change… I will continue to smile at everyone, be kind, courteous and respectful, not change to the other side of the street, or grab my purse tighter, or make assumptions about someone based on their appearance. If you ever see me doing something that needs “checking,” please let me know, AD!”

My daughter helps me be more aware every day, navigating the world of non-binary pronouns and helping me identify ways that may inadvertently come off as insensitive. So I continue to try. In talking with her today, she pointed out that being shocked or surprised about what happened to Mr Floyd is a form of privilege. The African American community is wearily not shocked anymore. It’s expected — every day — to be a suspect. To be looked at furtively. To be wondered about.

Think of that wretched white woman in Central park, who called the police on the African American man who was reminding her of the leash laws. While she essentially strangles her dog, she tells police he is threatening her, when he CLEARLY is not. She and he both know how the police could respond to the woman’s pleas — and he bravely stands his ground. How easily Christian Cooper could’ve been the next dead black man., had the police not recognized the shameful situation for what it was.

That, my friends, is white privilege. Using race as an indication of good vs evil, right vs wrong. Luckily, rightfully, she ended up the villain, and he was the hero.

I’m not saying that George Floyd was a hero. I’m just saying that he was a human who deserved to be respected by and protected by the police, not treated like vermin to be stepped on in the street.

Don’t we all just want to be respected? And to feel safe?

I am also not going to blanketly blame law enforcement. If we say all cops are bad, that’s just like saying every person at the protest looted and burned and destroyed. OK — wait — that’s gonna piss someone off. I know it’s not the same. But is it so different that we can’t at least take a breath and talk about it? So let’s not say “the cops.” Let’s say “THOSE cops.” Yes: it is a systemic issue that must be forever and radically changed. But please: don’t assume that all police officers would’ve acted that way. We know they wouldn’t. But yes: it clearly happens so frequently that the headlines are saying “again” and “another” POC killed by cops.

We also need to be careful about others who are being blamed. The owner of the Cup Foods, where the incident with Mr. Floyd originated, spoke publicly about the situation. He said usually when counterfeit money changes hands, the person handing it over has no idea the bill is counterfeit. Usually, the police arrive and just ask the individual where they obtained the false currency, and let them go. Obviously this did not happen in this instance. The store is appalled that their call resulted in this catastrophe. The clerk is devastated. The owner has offered to not only pay all funeral expenses, but wants to help the community heal however he can. I do hope that this small, minority-owned neighborhood business does not suffer. We don’t need that in a time when small businesses are failing daily due to the current health crisis.

The COVID-19 situation crossed my mind on the first day of the chaos: if it weren’t for the boredom of a pandemic, would the rioting and looting be as bad? I mean, I was a reporter once. I know the media is grateful for any non-pandemic news right now. And people are bored, and cooped up. Quickly I quashed that thought — and chastised myself for what was clearly a train of thought which diminished the complexity and severity for the situation.

Ironically, today I read an enlightening op-ed piece in the New York Times by writer Keeanga-Yamhatta Taylor. Ms Taylor, an associate professor at Princeton, eloquently gave some background on why, right now in particular, Mr Floyd’s murder is so incendiary. She actually mentions COVID-19, and that yes: it does play a role. But not how I thought.

Ms Taylor talks about how COVID-19 has disproportionately ravaged the black community “highlighting and accelerating the ingrained social inequities that have made African-Americans the most vulnerable to the disease.” Secondly, she talks about how the response to the pandemic is skewed “It’s not just the higher rates of death that fuel this anger, but also publicized cases where African-Americans have been denied health care because nurses or doctors didn’t believe their complaints about their symptoms. Just as maddening is the assumption that African-Americans bear personal responsibility for dying in disproportionate numbers.”

She also talks about something that has been mentioned repeatedly on social media: why are white protesters, heavily armed, allowed to walk into the Michigan state capitol and other areas, and scream in the face of police, without repercussions? In fact, our President praised them as “very good people,” whereas he called the protesters in Minnesota “THUGS” (his caps, not mine).

Even my candidate for President, Joe Biden, screwed up by saying “you ain’t black” if African Americans consider voting for Trump in the fall. Dude, you are a rich white man. You have no right to say something like that. I’ll vote for you, because we gotta get rid of the current abomination, but I’ll be honest: you were not my top choice.

Getting back to Ms. Taylor, who eloquently summed things up: “The convergence of these tragic events — a pandemic disproportionately killing black people, the failure of the state to protect black people and the preying on black people by the police — has confirmed what most of us already know: If we and those who stand with us do not mobilize in our own defense, then no official entity ever will. Young black people must endure the contusions caused by rubber bullets or the acrid burn of tear gas because government has abandoned us. Black Lives Matter only because we will make it so.” I urge you to read her piece in its entirety.

Back in the Twin Cities, everyone is agreeing it is time for real change. In today’s press conference, Governor Tim Walz gave an impassioned speech insisting that real change would come, but first the neighborhoods had to be set to rights. Kind of a clean up the broken glass before we can fix the foundations thing. I get that, appreciate it, and support it. He and the other elected officials seem to be truly committed to change. I hope so.

It might help that business leaders are vowing to help.

Dr. Marc Gorelick, president and CEO of Children’s Minnesota, released a statement today co-signed by 28 corporate leaders, from companies as diverse as General Mills, Best Buy, the Minnesota Wild, US Bank and Ernst and Young and Medtronic (full disclosure: HWSNBN works for one of the signed companies). It read, in part:

“As business leaders in Minnesota committed to the principles of greater equity, diversity and inclusion in our companies and in our community, we are deeply saddened and horrified by the recent death of Mr. George Floyd… His death … reflects deeply ingrained, long-standing injustice within our society. .. The repeated occurrence of racially charged events of this nature are contrary to the close-knit employment and residential communities we desire to have in Minnesota. We are committed to taking steps to eliminate the repeat of events like this in our society and committed to investing in substantive change in our organizations and the communities we serve to address racial inequities and social justice. Change has to start today, and it needs to start with us.” (read the full text here).

This is admirable. But will they make measurable change? What will they do? Today an African American CNN reporter was arrested for doing his job reporting on the riots. His white counterpart was not. Will these respected business leaders change that?

Let me pose this scenario. It is 10:30 at night, and the African American CEO of a company comes home, and his wife asks him to run back out to grab a gallon of milk for the kids’ breakfast. He has a choice to make: can he stay in the workout clothes he wore home from the gym, or should he change into khakis and a polo so he won’t be racially profiled?

When I run errands in my grubbies, I laugh and nervously hope I don’t run into anyone I know looking like that. If I were black, I would be worried I would be arrested or worse.

But, as I sit here, a white woman in my suburban home, I am not afraid to die.

And for that, I am privileged.

Below is a piece done today by my brilliant artist friend, Melissa Moore, another suburban white woman who found herself overcome with emotion today. This was her outlet.

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