How the Super Bowl committee helped convince La Belle Crepe to reopen

The owner shut the place down; here's why he changed his mind.
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The sidewalk patio at La Belle Crepe.

The sidewalk patio at La Belle Crepe.

Just last week Alain Lenne was so fed up with trying to do business in downtown Minneapolis he closed his restaurant and walked away. 

Now he's getting ready to reopen and is excited about what lies ahead for his shop on Nicollet Mall, La Belle Crepe

What explains the change? Well, he took a break for one thing. But he also got a call from the Super Bowl organizers that Lenne says helped change his outlook. Here's what happened:

'Closed until further notice'

La Belle Crepe sits right on Nicollet Mall, which has been torn up by reconstruction work for what seemed like 125 years. But was actually only three years. 

Lenne had tried to have fun with it ("a front row seat for Nicollet Mall mega reconstructions"). He'd written to the mayor pleading for help (no response).

Finally, this month he put up a sign saying the shop was closed until further notice because of the hardship of the long construction project, telling WCCO he's lost an estimated $200,000 as the rebuild has kept pedestrian traffic away. 

What changed his mind?

Lenne got away from the Twin Cities by taking a short vacation in his native France. And while he was there a got a call from a guy with the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, Lenne tells the Star Tribune

From across the ocean the Minneapolis caller painted a picture of what Nicollet Mall will look like in a few months. They're expecting 25,000 people on the mall every night for 10 straight nights, Lenne told the Star Tribune, and the busiest section of the mall will be right in front of La Belle Crepe. 

The mall will be the center of Super Bowl Live, which will feature ice carvings, music stages, and lots of wintry, football-y stuff. Planners have just released the first drawings of how they envision Super Bowl Live. 

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Lenne said all the activity outside his restaurant door looks like fun and he told WCCO it could give him a chance to make up some of his losses. 

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He normally closes La Belle Crepe at 3 p.m. but Lenne told the Star Tribune he now plans to keep the tiny shop open at night during the run-up to the Super Bowl and may have a cart outside on the mall selling popcorn and hot chocolate.

Besides, he says, after holding on through three summers of construction "it would be stupid to give it up now," with the city promising work on the mall will be "substantially complete" next month.

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