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With Minnesota Orchestra lockout over, businesses and city tally losses

MinnPost file photo by Corey Anderson
Minneapolis finance officials estimate city restaurants, like MASA, left, lost $1.7 million in dining revenues for the season.

Michelle Hummer’s 474-day nightmare came to an end Tuesday evening. As the general manager of MASA, a Mexican eatery located down the street from the Minnesota Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis, she watched the restaurant suffer “significant” losses as the performance hall sat dark for more than a year during a historic lockout.

But news broke that musicians and the Minnesota Orchestral Association had finally reached an agreement and ratified a three-year contract that kicks in Feb. 1. With concerts likely to start back up shortly after that, Hummer says she can “already feel the life back in the restaurant.”

“We feel like we can look across the street and have hope,” she said. “It’s nice knowing we are going to have guests who aren’t just protesters.”

From cancellation of ’12-13 Orchestra season
Convention center
Total losses

Hotels, restaurants and other businesses near Orchestra Hall are thrilled to see the end of the lockout, a drawn-out conflict that had a ripple effect throughout the neighborhood. The city of Minneapolis estimates it lost $2.9 million in parking, dining and other business during the suspended 2013 orchestra season. That includes about $414,000 in parking fees – an Orchestra Hall attendee pays an average of $10 to park during a performance in nearby ramps – and nearly $900,000 in anticipated food and beverage rental at the Minneapolis Convention Center down the street.

For Minneapolis restaurants like MASA, the toll was high. Minneapolis finance officials estimate city restaurants lost $1.7 million in dining revenues for the season.

The Minnesota Orchestra’s own research says about half of people who attend a performance also dine in downtown Minneapolis. About 30 percent of Orchestra Hall patrons attend matinee performances and spend an average of about $40 at a restaurant. Those attending an evening show at the hall, which is an overwhelming majority of visitors, spend an average of $80 an evening, according to the city.

‘Huge relief’

“It’s a huge relief to have this behind us,” said Downtown Council CEO Steve Cramer, who said downtown businesses were anxious to see the lockout end. “Orchestra Hall is a statewide asset but they play in downtown Minneapolis. The orchestra was clearly one of those unique experiences in downtown that you can’t find anywhere else, and it’s just great to see the lights go back on.”

During the lockout, Hummer’s restaurant had to adapt. Staff was cut back to save costs and the restaurant introduced new date night specials and happy hour deals. They took to social media to spread the word and targeted nearby businesses to increase traffic.  

“You are operating with the promise that if you just hold on tight a little longer it will eventually open up again. Orchestra Hall is really the heartbeat of 11th Avenue and Nicollet,” Hummer said. “You take the heartbeat out of an intersection like that and everything is different. The traffic is different; the customers are different. You have to think outside of the box.”

Vince Vito, the director of sales and marketing at the nearby Hyatt Regency Minneapolis Hotel, says there’s no other place like Orchestra Hall in the entire state of Minnesota, and many people visit from far-flung regions of the state or from out of state and spend the night in Minneapolis.

“When you think about orchestras, it’s kind of a status thing for the downtown area and cities in general,” Vito said. “It’s going to be a positive thing for the hotel and it’s another shot in the arm for downtown.”

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by mp Rolojeck on 01/16/2014 - 11:39 am.

    Total losses: $2.9M?!

    Blimey! That’s enough for at least a few union horn players.

  2. Submitted by Amy Adams on 01/16/2014 - 02:38 pm.

    Nice bit of snark, there, MP.

    These horn players, and the rest of the brass, and all the woodwinds and the strings and percussion…are worth quite a bit more than the petty, grasping and incompetent leadership that has so damaged the Minnesota orchestra.

  3. Submitted by Amy Adams on 01/16/2014 - 02:49 pm.

    MP Rolojeck…looks like I owe you an apology… 😉

    I’m sorry…I should have refuted you for TWO reasons, not just one.
    See, the $2.9M is only the CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS’s losses from parking ramp and convention center rental, food and beverages. This does not include collateral damage to neighboring hotels and restaurants, shopping people might do while in town, etc.

    Glad to clear this up.

  4. Submitted by Jon Eisenberg on 01/16/2014 - 05:34 pm.

    City lost revenue

    MP Rolojeck: A more apt comparison is that the $2.9 million lost city revenue would have paid for 55 police officers or 1.2 million school lunches.

  5. Submitted by Elizabeth Erickson on 01/21/2014 - 01:23 am.

    the tendency is to oversimplify this equation

    This is a great article and written with the facts available. But there is a tendency to oversimplify the equation and as such the figures for the cost of the lockout I think are much greater than what gets reported by anyone. What about every service person the musicians used before the lockout that they could not continue to pay for; how about all the shops keepers of the stores that the 80 plus musicians and the families probably have not used nearly as much for the past 16 months; what about the dance teachers and music teachers who tried to help out by offering reduced tuition to the musicians so their kids could keep studying? What about the depleted college funds? What about retirement funds that have been tapped out? The list goes on and on. Maybe it is difficult to get an accurate number when you start looking a little deeper at the fallout, but to not look at it is cowardly and we’ve all paid a high price for people who stick their heads in the sand because what’s in front of them is difficult to swallow.

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