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Boom Island Brewing looks to move after Minneapolis shooting

September 12, 2018

Jim Barnard drove to work Saturday morning unaware of the violence that unfolded the night before.

Steps from Boom Island Brewerys patio, gunfire killed a 42-year-old man and injured three others in the north Minneapolis alley. Barnard had closed up just 90 minutes earlier.

It would have been a complete innocent bystander just walking out, said Boom Island owner Kevin Welch. At some point, you have to look out for the safety of your employees.

The shooting was the last straw for Welch, who said Tuesday that hes relocating, weary of the gang activity outside his business at 2014 Washington Av. N.

When Welch opened the Belgian-style craft brewery in a former automotive garage seven years ago, he hoped to be part of West Broadways transformation. He and his wife sunk their savings and retirement into the business, which built a dedicated following.

Though it remains profitable, the brewery has suffered from a spate of crime that has only escalated.

Last February, someone smashed out the car windows of regular customers two weeks in a row. Both times it occurred before 9 p.m. Unlike most bars, Boom Island closes each weekend by 9 p.m. for the safety of its patrons.

We believe in the neighborhood and wanted to make the most out of it, Welch said. But Im scared to walk out to my own car.

Last weekend was exceptionally violent in Minneapolis. Ten people were shot, four of them fatally, including the shooting at Cliff Norms, a short walk from Boom Island.

The shootings prompted Mayor Jacob Frey to say Monday hes redoubling efforts to curb shootings and other violent crimes.

Homicides remain down about 29 percent compared with the same time last year. Yet that tally doesnt capture the weekends violence, according to a police spokesman, who said the department records had not yet been updated.

The news that Boom Island is leaving is discouraging to community organizers like John Bueche, executive director of West Broadway Business and Area Coalition (WBC). His organization is working to reverse a generational trend of disinvestment in the community by renovating vacant spaces, commissioning new art and murals, hosting farmers markets and art crawls.

Sometimes when youre driving down Broadway its hard to believe that progress has been made, but it has, he said. The business community is on the rise in the north side.

Welch applauds those efforts, but says it isnt enough to convince him to stay in the neighborhood. Ideally, the brewery will remain in Minneapolis, he said, adding that he hopes to find a space where residents can easily walk to grab a beer.

Hes enlisting patrons to help crowdsource the estimated $500,000-$700,000 needed to relocate. Until they raise the cash, theyll stay open at their current location.

Two blocks over, Broadway Pizza has remained sheltered from recent violence.

Brenda Rood, a longtime server and assistant manager said she doesnt remember the last time they had to call the police.

Its disheartening, she said of Boom Islands decision. Theres a lot of good people in north Minneapolis.

Staff writers Mary Lynn Smith and Libor Jany contributed to this report.

Liz Sawyer 612-673-4648

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