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Long recovery ahead for some damaged Minneapolis businesses

The owner of Brit's Pub, one of four businesses set on fire, expects a months-long recovery
Brit's Pub Minneapolis

The owner of Brit's Pub, which was set on fire and looted Wednesday, has said a full recovery could take months. 

The downtown bar appears to be among the hardest hit by Wednesday's riots, which stemmed from false rumors that Minneapolis police had shot a Black man on Nicollet Mall. Instead, as police approached the suspect of an earlier fatal shooting at a parking ramp, the suspect fatally shot himself.

A small crowd gathered downtown Thursday afternoon as false rumors began to spread on social media. Eventually, the scene became the site of riots that saw damage to dozens of businesses

The unrest occurred amid widespread distrust of Minneapolis police, a point conceded by Mayor Jacob Frey and chief Medaria Arradondo on Thurasday, as well as in the wake of Sunday's police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

Within 90 minutes, the MPD tweeted the body camera footage showing the death by suicide, which was retweeted by the city of Minneapolis. Eventually, both accounts removed the tweets. As activists told the crowd that this was a misunderstanding, the damage continued late Wednesday night. 

"Minneapolis Police have eroded our trust and have abused, criminalized, and killed people unjustly over many decades. And they have gotten away with it. Beyond that, our community is hurting very badly and deeply and we have still not received justice or systemic changes," civil rights lawyer and activist Nekima Levy Armstrong wrote in a statement on Facebook.

"This is not the time to blame people who are upset and who distrust the police and who thought they saw a police murder. This is a time for us to double our efforts in demanding systemic reforms, firing of abusive and killer cops, and a shift in harmful policies and practices that are damaging Black lives and our feelings of peace and safety." 

The Brit's Pub restaurant and business office were robbed of equipment including computers, TV and liquor, Kam Talebi, owner and CEO of Kaskaid Hospitality, told WCCO radio Thursday morning.

"It's pretty extensive, unfortunately," Talebi said. "It's just, it's disheartening, sad. This is such an institution to look at the building and this state of disarray is just surreal."

He told the Star Tribune he thinks a full recovery could take months. 

Kaskaid Hospitality, which owns several restaurants including Crave, Union and BLVD on Nicolett Mall, bought Brit's Pub in 2019. The longtime general manager, Shane Higgins, wrote on Facebook Thursday that a professional restoration company is already "doing a fantastic job." 

"Many of you are asking to come in and clean up," he said. "If we need further help when they are done, I'll certainly reach out, but I'm confident we will be fine on that front." 

He continued: "It could have been a whole lot worse. The fire you saw triggered sprinklers and God bless the fire dept for attending and putting it out ... Onwards and upwards, we'll be closed through the weekend at least but we will reopen."

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Talebi told WCCO he evacuated the staff as he waited for a police response, which he said took too long. 

"We called 911 and reported it ... they said, well, we'll get to it as soon as we can. A couple hours later, about 11:30, is when the building caught on fire," he said.  I think that the police were really focused more on, you know, 9th through 7th (streets) where Target is, and left this area sort of unattended."

More than 130 people were arrested during the unrest, with those in custody coming from a mixture of the Twin Cities, suburbs, and outside of the metro.

Minneapolis Fire Department responded to four fires overnight, including a fire that required the rescue of two residents from the second floor at the China Wok restaurant on the 2800 block of S 27th Ave. The three other fires were at Brit's Pub, Tires Plus on the 1100 block of Lake Street, and at Walgreens on the east side of Chicago Avenue just south of 42nd. 

The City Pages reports that in Loring Park, Vietnamese restaurant Lotus, Indian-owned Greenway Liquors, Sushi Train, LGBT sex shop Rainbow Road, Speedway and Dahl's Medical Supply were among those damaged.

After Sushi Train evacuated their diners, employee Jon Lopez told the City Pages: “It was very scary. I mean, a lot of our employees are obviously just here doing their jobs. We care about the safety of everyone, and it’s unfortunate what’s happening in today’s society, but this is just a casualty of war I guess ... It’s unfortunate what happened because we’re going to have to slow down again. It’s something we all need financially, to keep our own bills paid.”

Meanwhile, the owner of Lotus, Yoom Nguyen, said he "damn near shot a man" when he confronted a rioter who threw a rock at his family photo, and said "you motherf------."

He later apologized for his comments, saying: "He saw the anger in my eyes and I saw the fear in his. I’m sure he’s rethinking his actions as am I. I’m not happy nor proud of what I did. I got calls from my parents, my brothers, my friends, and my relatives from as far as Vietnam. This is not who I am as a person. I am sincerely sorry for my actions." 

At a press conference Thursday, city council member Lisa Goodman said she was "disgusted" by the actions on Wednesday evening. She said violence does not honor the memory of police shooting victims and undermines the effort towards racial equity.

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