Chicken or the Egg - Literally

Last night, Beatrix was still at the Renaissance Festival (thanks, Val!)and we had just finished the pantry project, so we decided to go out to celebrate.

We wanted to go to Eastlake Brewery because it was closing (sob!), and we thought some stalls at the often underwhelming Midtown Marketplace might still be open (contrary to the example cited by Ward 1's worst possible candidate Suz Woehrle, Midtown is not a great success story, but I digress). When we got there, and pulled into the axe-murderer-dead parking, we realized it was even worse than expected, and the whole marketplace area was closed up — yes, at 5pm on a Sunday.

We actually found an open door to Eastlake — which was hopping! — and had a final beer, but we were hungry, so we started thinking of places to go to eat. El Norteno - closed on Sunday. Same with a few other taco places nearby. Taco trucks often don't have much that is vegetarian. Peppers and Fries and High Hat have recently jacked menu prices up A LOT; paying $50 for 2 middle-range dinners (without drinks) seemed un-doable. Back in Saint Paul, faves such as Bar Cart are also closed on Sundays, and the new Slice Pizza was closing at 7 so we would not make it in time.

We ended up at Shish, which was a great call. They were stacking up a lot of take-out orders, but few people eating in. While we were there, my friend called looking for drink suggestions because he was going out with a group, and we ran into the same thing as we went down my usual hot list — places were closed on Sundays, or closed early.

As I said to Patrick, it's no wonder we end up at Punch all the time.

(We ran into this Friday night when we tried to go out for a drink too; at 9:20pm on Friday Emerald Lounge and Bar Cart were bumping, but everyplace else was closed).

It brought to mind the stories I had heard from many friends over the summer whose teens got hired for restaurant jobs and soon lost most of their hours when places decided to keep early closings in effect and cut staff when they were open.

The thing is, I can't see the way out of it. People won't go out if it's hard to — if closing hours are irregular, and costs are high. Restaurants have to save costs where they can, by making cuts, because costs are high and business is erratic. The two feed off each other, and the free market that we as a country are so obsessed with lacks a way to effectively solve the issue.

And it's not just restaurants; it's stores too, but that's another post.

If our cities really want to make this work (and they should, they are dependent on sales tax), they need to invest a hunk of change in some true innovation. Make meters free near restaurants in busy nights. Give incentives to places to expand hours. Help with marketing. Have city leaders eat out more with their families and set examples. 

(And let's not even discuss parking, which people tell me should not be a problem but let's face it, it is).

While they are at it, city government could address some of at least the smaller broken windows issues, because another thing that really brought me down yesterday was crossing a trash-covered sidewalk to get to the taproom, with tons of tagging on buildings nearby, cars running red lights so it was hard to cross the street, and people asking for money as we crossed. It doesn't need to be Disneyland, but it needs to feel better.

I don't know how to solve all of this, but I would sure like to work with you to make it better.

(Picture to show how much fun going out is!)


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