Northwest Water Carnival: canceled.
WE Fest: canceled.
Fourth of July fireworks: canceled.
With the COVID-19 pandemic canceling many events (though WE Fest's absence is unrelated to the virus), some local businesses aren't sure what this summer will look like for them. Some are hopeful. Some are already seeing a drop in revenue.
"It goes without saying that there's going to be a reduction," Kelcey Klemm, the city administrator, said in a phone interview last month.
The effect of the pandemic is expected to be felt across Minnesota, according to an Explore Minnesota Survey conducted in June. Of more than 1,300 responses, 33.9% of people had canceled at least one summer trip but were hoping to reschedule one or more. If they went on a trip, 41.7% of responders said that they would stay in Minnesota and relatively close to home.
Food and beverage tax revenue already dropping
"No WE Fest, no (Becker County) fair, certainly those things are going to have an impact, especially on that food and beverage tax," Klemm said.
He explained that the food and beverage tax is the easiest way for the city to see the affect summer tourism has here. A chart Klemm shared with the Tribune showed that, from May 2019 through August 2019, the tax amount was between $43,000 and $59,000, versus every other month, except for January, didn't reach $40,000.
The effect of the pandemic is already showing on the tax revenue for just the spring. In April 2019, the tax brought in over $33,000. In 2020, that number dropped over 46% to only $18,000. But Klemm said that they're "beginning to see that turnaround with bars and restaurants being able to open."
Hub 41, Beautiful Junque notice more local purchases
At Hub 41, owner Gretchen Hunter said that considering the rules and regulations they have to follow, they haven't seen a dip in business at the restaurant. Catering was seeing a decrease, but now that weddings and gatherings are happening again, she said that's starting to pick up again.
For the rest of the summer, Hunter said in an email to the Tribune that she "never assumes anything, anymore" about what business will look like.
"We take everything right now day to day," she said. "Town seems to be busy and buzzing with people who are ready for summer in Detroit Lakes!"
Alicia Bowers, owner of Beautiful Junque, agreed with Hunter about town being busy. She said in a June 17 phone interview that while her foot traffic isn't as high, her sales are still doing good.
"I think people, just because of COVID, people were just so sick of it that our numbers are good," she said. "Surprisingly, you'd think it would be the opposite."
Bowers said that she usually sees business pick up at the end of May, kicked off by the Street Faire -- which has also been canceled for 2020. July and August are her peak months, but with all of the cancellations, she said that it "does make a person a little nervous how that will affect numbers."
American Legion Campground 'losing a lot of revenue'
Many of the reservations at the American Legion Campground come from people in Canada, Karen Miller, the manager of the campground, said. But she's lost almost all of those reservations because the Canada/America border is closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We have a lot of Canadians that come," she said in a June 25 phone interview. "Every one of them that come, come for a week to two months. Every one of them has canceled except for two. We're losing a lot of revenue because of them not being able to come."
The loss in revenue is because of both the length of time that the Canadians usually stay and because of how many are there. In July, Miller said that about 75% of their 32 sites are filled by Canadians. American reservations have also been canceled because of the virus, she said.
"It's (the pandemic) going to hurt our business a lot this summer," she said.
The cancellations and drop in business were expected though, Miller said. They've closed the restrooms all summer for safety precautions, she said, so anyone with a tent or pop-up camper can't come as they don't have a bathroom in there. Only those with a personal bathroom are allowed.
"But we're starting to get a lot of reservations," Miller said, adding that she's expecting to see that trend continue in July and August. "I'm sure we'll pick up, but it's not going to be completely full during the week like it has been past years."
The length of time that people stay is what will hurt the campground. Most of the incoming reservations are just for a weekend, maybe a full week, Miller said, while the Canadian reservations that were canceled were all for multiple weeks, if not months.
Preparing for the effects
"I don't know if there's a way to prepare," Klemm said.
He and the city plan to "do everything we can to mitigate it," he said. They plan to allow events to happen as quickly and as much as they are allowed to, trying to avoid canceling things until they have to.
"We've been trying to be flexible," he said. "We've been trying to promote and allow events as ... soon as executive orders allow it. It's going to continue to be adjustments all summer."
For instance, Gov. Tim Walz and state health officials on Monday, June 29, warned Minnesota bar owners and patrons: start following the rules or you'll have to close again. The comments come as the state has reported hundreds of cases of the coronavirus among Minnesotans in their 20s who'd reported attending bars in the Mankato area and in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
"At some point in time, the carrot turns to the stick to stop this thing," Walz told reporters. "The bars right now just are not safe, they are not safe when they act that way."
Like Klemm, Hunter and Miller are ready to be flexible, because they either don't know what to prepare for or are waiting to see what happens in July.
"We don't know exactly what we are preparing for," Hunter said. "The whole situation has been day-to-day, sometimes minute-by-minute decisions."
Miller is relying on the America/Canada border to open on Tuesday, July 21, allowing some of her Canadian reservations to come through. She is waiting to see what happens in the upcoming weeks before preparing for the revenue loss at the campground.
"At this time, we haven't done anything differently," Miller said. "We'll have to see what comes about."
Since Beautiful Junque closed in March, Bowers said that her way of preparing for the revenue loss and effect of the pandemic is by focusing on her clients.
"Our way of preparing for it is trying to find creative ways to get the product to the customer, without having them literally have to step foot into our store," Bowers said.
While the store was closed, she started doing Facebook live sales and promoting online shopping. She said she plans to continue both of those avenues for the rest of the immediate future, as well as adding new ideas.
"We started these Junque Mail Boxes, like monthly boxes," Bowers said about one new addition.
Customers pick and choose what box they want to buy, so they could purchase the July box but skip the August one, Bowers explained. The boxes also include one or two local makers, she said.
"That's been going over really well," Bowers said.
Making it up next year
With so many events being canceled in 2020 and revenue being lost, Klemm said that the city is "gearing up" for what summer 2021 will look like.
"Next year's our 150th (city birthday)," Klemm said. "A lot of fun things are planned for next year ... We're going to try do everything a little bit bigger than what was done traditionally."
Summer 2020 will still have fun events and businesses open for shopping, eating and entertaining, but summer 2021 is set to be big in Detroit Lakes. These city leaders and local business owners hope it can make up revenue that may be lost this summer.
- Hub 41, 104 West Lake Drive, is open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11-12 a.m. on Friday, 9-1 a.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m.-11 p.m. on Sunday. Call 218-844-8488 or visit hub41.com or Facebook @Hub41DetroitLakes.
- Beautiful Junque, 918 Washington Ave., is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and Saturday, and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Call 218-234-7533 or visit beautifuljunque.com or Facebook @BeautifulJunque.
- American Legion Campground, 810 West Lake Drive, is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. on Friday and 8 a.m.-8 p.m. on Saturday. Call 218-847-3759 or visit dlamericanlegioncampground.com or Facebook @American-Legion-Campground.