Local business owners say state and city leaders are failing them

“They are public servants and they’re not serving us at all.”
Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 6:07 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Cass County is just one COVID-19 risk color away from all non-essential businesses being forced to shut down again. The change would leave takeout as the only form of revenue for places like Blackbird Pizza and Beer and Fish Company, but at this point, both places say that might be better than the current situation.

“They want to bring us down 25 percent capacity and offer a discount. It’s like, you’re not going to have any businesses left in North Dakota, especially downtown Fargo,” Casey Absey, owner and operator of Blackbird Pizza said.

“If you put us all the way into red and shut us down, I would at least expect the government to step in and everyone would be receiving unemployment and there would be some sort of support. Putting us in orange is essentially setting businesses up to fail," Reid Hawking, Beer and Fish Company’s Assistant General Manager said.

Hawking says 25 percent capacity only gives restaurants enough to break even on general business costs.

“We need to make the call on whether or not we want to bleed money but keep customers, or bleed slightly less money and completely shut down,” he said.

Both Hawking and Absey add they feel like state and local leaders are hanging hard working businesses out to dry.

“We don’t want or need a handout. It could be another round of loans. I don’t know if you could support that with the Legacy Fund or something, but it feels like the rain day is here. It’s been pouring for awhile,” Hawking said.

“I know North Dakota has a lot of rainy day funds and boy, it’s raining out,” Absey said.

“In order to run a business successfully, you have to pack this place out every night. And what was it, eight people died yesterday? If you told us to walk outside in the alley and shoot someone in the head to keep the business open, no one’s raising their hand to go do that, but by keeping this business open that’s the effect,” Hawking said.

The COVID-19 risk level change also strongly encourages North Dakota businesses to require masks, which is something Absey says he did earlier this week and has already caused issues for some of his customers.

“I’ve been holding off making a mask mandate hoping our leaders would mandate it so that we don’t have to fight about it,” Absey said.

Hawking says while his workers are required to wear masks, as of right now, customers are free to choose because he says taking a side likely means losing customers.

“We should not be making public health decisions in the state of North Dakota. It’s just that simple,” he said.

Copyright 2020 KVLY. All rights reserved.

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