How Minnesota Tourism Businesses are Helping Flatten the Curve

By Brian Fanelli

As the Minnesota tourism industry goes digital to help suppress the coronavirus pandemic, tourism-related businesses across the state are pivoting their operations to help flatten the curve.

From distilleries manufacturing hand sanitizer to hotels offering free or discounted lodging for healthcare workers, here are some of the ways Minnesota's tourism industry is stepping up and innovating to keep Minnesota healthy.

10,000 Drops Distillery displays spirits and hand sanitizer

10,000 Drops Craft Distillers is producing and donating hand sanitizer to Faribault healthcare providers  / @10000drops on Instagram

Minnesota Distilleries Begin Crafting Sanitizers

With tasting rooms closed to the public, some craft distilleries around the state have pivoted their production into creating hand sanitizer using the alcohol byproduct of their spirits.

Vikre Distillery in Duluth has been using its facility to produce sprayable, hard-surface and hand sanitizer since mid-March, when they gave away the initial 400-gallon batch in just one day. They've since scaled up production to the tune of several thousand gallons, and continue to offer it to the public at no cost. 

Loon Liquor Co. in Northfield is using its distilling equipment to produce hand sanitizer. You can pick up a free, 6-ounce container of sanitizer via their curbside pickup program so long as you BYOB (bottle). 

In addition to their sanitizer operations, Vikre Distillery and Loon Liquor Co. are both selling cocktail kits so you can have a fancy night in during Minnesota's Stay at Home Order.

Local Businesses Provide Free Meals to Those in Need

For many kids in low-income Minnesota households, school lunches are often an essential service for staying fed. But with schools closed—and their cafeterias with them—we're seeing local restaurants across the state stepping in to fill the gap. In the Twin Cities, school-aged kids can pick up free meals from restaurants such as Que Viet, Maya Cuisine, Key's Cafe, Billy's on Grand, Zen Box Izakaya, El Burrito Mercado and more. Hope Breakfast Bar is even covering free breakfast for the whole family for St. Paul families in need.

On the other end of the age spectrum, some Minnesota businesses are working to ensure seniors stay fed through the crisis. Hormel Foods, makers of Minnesota's most-loved meat, is purchasing 300 lunches each weekday from Austin-area restaurants and having SPAM Museum employees deliver them to seniors suffering from food insecurity. Down in Winona, Blooming Grounds Coffee House is making lunches for elderly residents in coordination with their local senior center. The coffee shop had previously been making lunches for school-aged kids in the area, but pivoted to helping seniors after the Winona school district resumed providing lunches to children.

Hotel key card

A woman uses her hotel room key / © makistock -

Local Hotels Pivot to Lodge Healthcare Workers, High-Risk Populations

Minnesota's Stay at Home order strongly discourages leisure travel, which has put the state's hotel and hospitality industry in a perilous situation—including job losses of approximately 60,000 workers. But short of shutting down entirely, many hotels and lodging options are offering free or reduced rates to healthcare workers who may need to socially isolate from their families. Additionally, some Minnesota hotels are also repurposing rooms specifically for high-risk populations such as seniors and people experiencing homelessness.

So far, over 200 hotels in Minnesota have signed on to the American Hotel & Lodging Association's "Hospitality for Hope" initiative, which helps coordinate their efforts with relevant local, state and federal governments. Some local examples include ZMC Hotels in Rogers and Duluth, Hotel 340 in downtown St. Paul and three TPI Hospitality hotels in Rochester.

Minnesotans Making Masks for Minnesotans

With all shows on hold, the Minnesota Opera’s costume department is using its considerable talents to create face masks for healthcare workers. The opera has even been able to keep paying its costume department to produce masks.

Up in Ely, iconic outdoor clothing company Wintergreen is using its manufacturing facilities to make cotton face masks for the public, and personal protective equipment for local healthcare workers on the Iron Range and along the North Shore.

Want to pitch in? Treadle Yard Goods in St. Paul is providing free sewing kits that consumers can take home and sew to help with the shortage.

Brian Fanelli

Brian Fanelli is a Minneapolis-based writer. You can reliably find him browsing the sci-fi shelves in a local bookstore or biking one of Minnesota's spectacular trails.