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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Minneapolis business owner on navigating crime spike, inflation: ‘It’s definitely an uphill battle’

Sam Turner, co-owner and founder of the Nicollet Diner based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, explains how crime in the city changed the way he operates his business. 

A Minneapolis restaurant owner explained on Wednesday how crime in the city has changed the way he operates his business and how persistent inflation impacts his bottom line.

"It’s definitely an uphill battle," Sam Turner, co-owner and founder at the Nicollet Diner, stressed on "Mornings with Maria" on Wednesday. 

Turner provided the insight as inflation sits near 40-year highs

The Labor Department revealed earlier this month that the consumer price index, a broad measure of the price for everyday goods including gasoline, groceries and rents, rose 8.5% in July from a year ago, below the 9.1% year-over-year surge recorded in June. Prices were unchanged in the one-month period from June.

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It was also revealed earlier this month that inflation at the wholesale level cooled in July for the first time in two years, although prices for everyday necessities remain at a multi-decade high, squeezing businesses and millions of American households. 

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Turner noted that not only has he been dealing with an increase in crime, but with rising costs as well as labor shortages. Food prices marched higher, surging 1% last month – the fastest increase in four months. 

"I think that you try to look at the big picture and look forward to better times and I guess that’s what we’re hoping for," he said. 

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When asked how he is able to manage the rising cost, he noted that it has been "a financial exercise," explaining that it comes down to taking "the cost that it takes to operate the business divided by the number of breakfasts and cheeseburgers that you sell," which he said ultimately reflects a menu price. 

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Turner noted that the increase in crime has been hurting profits as well. 

He explained that the Nicollet Diner relocated this month to a space in Nicollet Mall where he also plans to open a cabaret bar next door. Turner said he made changes due to the increase in crime, including prior shootings having taken place near his business. 

"What’s going on around us really impacted the way that we changed operations going into our new location, being mindful of public safety and crime in general in our area," he said on Wednesday. 

He added that "there seems to be a general feeling with fewer people downtown, it feels less safe." 

"I think that activated spaces are safe spaces," he went on to say. "The more people you have in an area, you tend to feel a lot safer. So the general lack of people in downtown I think has a big impact on people’s feeling of safety."

OpenTable data shows that Minneapolis had less than half the number of people eating out in July than they did in 2019.  San Francisco, Portland and Seattle saw over a 40% drop. 

All of those cities have seen more than a 10% increase in crime this year compared to last, according to city crime data. 

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Minneapolis is also contending with fewer officers in the city. The police department had over 700 police officers back in 2019, but now that number dropped to less than 450, something some business owners said has contributed to the rise in crime. 

"A lot of times, we do feel like we’re on our own," Turner said. "We had to increase our security patrols."

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"The police department is helpful when things crop up in the neighborhood or there’s hot spots in the neighborhood, [but] they’re so understaffed it’s difficult for them to respond with any kind of force," he added.

FOX Business’ Mills Hayes contributed to this report. 

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