Cautious optimism for restaurants

John and Doug Edwards and Diane Fiegen are hoping for a busy 2022 at The Caboose after weathering the COVID-19 storm in 2020 and into 2021. Photo / Per Peterson

As Minnesota closes in on the two-year anniversary of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on schools and small businesses everywhere, those who run one of the hardest-hit industries have their fingers crossed that we won’t see a repeat of 2020.

“I wouldn’t say 2021 was a rebound year, but things were opening, things were looking a little more positive,” said Diane Fiegen, co-owner the The Caboose, where numerous banquets and events were wiped out two years ago. “Our banquet business — it’s still not where it needs to be for us to make our financial commitments.”

Fiegen said having an empty banquet room in 2020 had a ripple effect on her business. Quiet weekends in the banquet room drove down business overall.

“That kind of carries us,” she said. “That hasn’t come back yet. The perception going into 2022 is hopefully that will be back hopefully the new wave (Omicron) won’t reach us because we’re so rural. If it stays that way we should probably be OK.”

Fiegen added that she, along with her partners Doug and John Edwards have altered their lives to accommodate for losses over the last two years, “partly because of COVID, partly because of our government, partly because of people being afraid,” she said. “We all have another job, so that’s how we kind of make it happen. Restaurants aren’t a get-rich thing anyway — we’re doing it because we love it.”

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